Letter from the Country Director of Brazil

This week, I’m sharing the Country Director letter from Brazil. This letter comes from Jose Carrasco again, remember, he’s a very busy man! I correspond with Rikelme in Brazil.

brazil-director-letter-2017

“Dear Alisa, Greetings in Jesus’ name! My name is Jose Carrasco. I am the South America area director, and I’ve been privileged to serve as the interim country director of Brazil since 2014. I was born in Peru. I have a wife and two wonderful children.

I am proud to tell you that Compassion has been serving Brazil for 29 years. We currently have about 185 child development centers in Brazil, and we are serving more than 43,000 children. The impact of Compassion’s holistic program in the life of a child is huge. We would not be able to reach all these wonderful children without sponsors’ generous and selfless giving. You have made it possible for Rikelme to receive love, care, nurture and support through your sponsorship and your prayers. You truly are making the difference in your child. Thank you so much for your support!

A sponsored child has a safe place to go each day and is taught about the love of Jesus. At the centers, children have the opportunity to identify their strengths, develop their gifts and talents, and overcome difficulties. They learn that they are special because they are children of God.

Allow me to share just some of the struggles we face daily. Compassion serves the most impoverished children in Brazil, and their families. There are high rates of childhood sickness and even death. Many children face violence; many come from broken homes. They also face financial crisis. Widespread unemployment and the high cost of living make life increasingly difficult for those who live with few resources. Lack of water and access to good medical care are common. Hospitals lack the medicine and equipment needed to serve their communities.

The coming year brings many challenges, but by God’s grace, we will continue to go forward and face these struggles. Compassion Brazil has improved its program and materials to better empower the churches to fulfill their mission. We are encouraged by the willingness of the churches to work hard and diligently to better serve the children through training, facilitation visits, materials and local mobilization.

Compassion Brazil has excellent plans in place to develop child protection networks and early childhood and youth development strategies. It is possible to change the lives of more children and help them to become strong and productive Christian adults. We have seen it so many times!

Nourishing the relationship between the sponsor and the child is critical. I encourage you to write letters. When a child receives a letter, it’s like receiving a special gift. It means so much to a child. Your words really encourage and nurture your child positively. Children feel loved and appreciated when they know someone far away is praying and thinking about them.

There are no words to express the gratitude that my heart feels for your sponsorship for Rikelme. Your giving has changed the destiny of your child, and that is priceless! I gladly express my appreciation for your generous giving. May the Lord bless you and your family. Please pray for us; we promise also to pray for you.

Sincerely in Christ,  Jose Carrasco”

Letter from the Country Director of El Salvador

This week, I’m sharing the Country Director letter from El Salvador. This is where Lucia lives.

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“Dear Alisa, My name is Guillermo Muñoz. God has blessed me since 2004, when I became the country director of this wonderful ministry. Everything we do helps the most marginalized, the most forgotten, and the most underestimated by our society: children in poverty.

Thank you for joining us in our fight against poverty and hopelessness. Your love, support and faithfulness to Lucia make an eternal difference. I know sponsorship works. Compassion began working in El Salvador in 1977. We work with about 250 church partners, serving more than 60,000 children. Poverty hurts so deeply, and in the child development centers, children receive encouragement, vision, healthy food, medical treatment, vocational training, protection, and the love of God.

El Salvador has gone through decades of militarism and civil war. Now, in the post-war period, more than 45 percent of the population lives in poverty. More than 20 percent of children under five suffer stunted growth. Our country has a low-quality public education system and low attendance due to violence. Also, more than 95 percent of the population lives in territory at risk from floods, mudslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tropical storms. Finally, our children live in one of the most violent countries in the world.

Poverty tells our children there is no hope, no opportunity to have an education. They become targets of the gangs and never learn their identity in Christ. Amid these struggles, we find the local church that has the vision, passion, heart and unlimited love that only come from God. Our vision is to continue giving children the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God created them to be. We provide programs focused on preventing children’s involvement in violence, helping them discover their potential skills and talents, and opening opportunities for academic reinforcement workshops and nonformal education.

One example of transformational impact is one of our pastors, who is so passionate and willing to work with the gangs. He just sits with them, sharing a meal, showing the love of Jesus, and telling them there is hope no matter who you are. Many gang members have surrendered their lives to Jesus, and they send their children to the Compassion center. Now this new generation will not be the same, because they have hope! They are building an eternal relationship with God.

Talking about relationship, the connection children have with their sponsors through letters is so valuable, because they feel loved, appreciated and encouraged. I consider the loneliness of a 13-year-old boy who doesn’t have siblings; his mom passed away, and his dad is in prison. His sponsors (a married couple) made him feel like family despite the long distance between them. Their kind, loving words in letters encourage and bring him hope. This boy wants to be a civil engineer because his life was changed through letters from his sponsors.

We believe in a better future where children can overcome poverty. We plant seeds of hope in each of them, and you are part of this through your constant care for Lucia. I want to express my deep gratitude for all the support we get from you. You give Lucia the love of God. Thank you!

Please pray with us: Heavenly Father, give us wisdom, strength and enough love to reach out and support children who suffer a lack of opportunities imposed by poverty. We pray for those threatened by violence. We pray for a strong and committed church that upholds the cause of children, and we pray for our sponsors, who lovingly join the mission of releasing children from poverty in the precious name of Jesus.

Sincerely, Guillermo Muñoz”

Letter from the Country Director of Indonesia

This week’s Country Director letter is from Indonesia, where I sponsor Finka. I haven’t been a sponsor in Indonesia too long, just since April. So it was great to learn more about their ministry there!

indonesia-director-letter-2017

“Dear Alisa, I am Sarah Jeanin Rahardja, Compassion Indonesia country director. This is my 15th year working with Compassion. Compassion Indonesia started its ministry in 1984. Today, we minister to almost 70,000 children, nearly 800 mothers and babies in the survival program, and 87 Leadership Development Program students through more than 315 church partners.

Thank you for your commitment, love and contribution to Finka. You have changed everything for your child. Sponsors’ financial support not only provides school tuition, healthy meals, and medical intervention, but it gives the children confidence, since they know they are loved, known and protected.

In Indonesia, 13.8 million children live below the poverty line. Children who live in rural eastern Indonesia have more disadvantages in access to clean water, schools and health care. However, children in western Indonesia have their own disadvantages due to the concentration of population. In Indonesia, increasing numbers of parents must work outside their village or even out of the country. Only 10 percent of children see both their parents daily, and 20 percent of children do not see either of their parents.

One of our focuses for the coming year is youth development, which will provide programs and opportunities for youth to be disciples, develop their leadership, and develop their interests and talents to become self-sufficient. We are also expanding our ministry to more extreme-poverty areas. This year, we will expand into Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara province, and North Sumatra.

Last year, we implemented Qavah, a method to empower church partners. We help church partners to identify their resources instead of identifying their needs. The process has a significant result when church partners start to access resources around them and mobilize their communities to respond to their own needs. Church partners have been able to mobilize communities to build toilets or bridges and clean the streets. We used a similar process with youth, and they came up with some great ideas and programs; empowering youth also helped the church partners maintain youth participation at the child development centers. In one center, the youth developed a program to pick up the younger children and serve them during the activities at the center.

Children value their relationships with their sponsors. They not only appreciate the financial support, but especially the sponsor letters. Some children study harder because of encouragement from their sponsors in letters, some children feel valuable because their sponsors say they pray for them and love them, and some children meet Christ through sponsor letters. Through letters, children feel the love and attention that some of them cannot get from their parents, who are too busy to meet their needs. Please write as often as you can.

These achievements in children’s lives could not happen without sponsors’ support and commitment. You play an important role. Through the relationship between sponsor and child, two different people from different countries, different languages, and different cultures can know each other and see the kingdom of God in wider perspective. The sponsor-child relationship is not limited by program, but it is a lifelong relationship. I am thankful to be your co-worker in this most effective ministry to bring children to rise from poverty and to know Jesus.

I humbly ask you to pray that we can have the courage and commitment to do our best; also pray for the process of expanding our ministry to more impoverished areas in Indonesia.

Please let me express my gratitude again for your commitment, love and heart for Finka. May God bless you abundantly.

In Jesus, Sarah Jeanin Rahardja”

Letter from the Country Director of Ghana

This week’s Country Director letter is from Ghana. I’ve been sponsoring Oxford there since January, and in 6 months time I already received 3 letters. The communication seems to be frequent and the turnaround time very quick, at least in my experience.

ghana-director-letter-2017

“Dear Alisa, I am Padmore Baffour Agyapong. I have been the country director of Compassion Ghana for five years. Compassion Ghana is 11 years old. We are currently supporting more than 68,000 children in about 250 child development centers.

I sincerely wish to express my utmost appreciation to you for sponsoring Oxford in Ghana. The challenges the children and their families face include high unemployment rates, low income levels, lack of health facilities, inaccessibility of potable water and toilet facilities, harmful cultural practices, child abuse, and inadequate infrastructure.

Schools in the rural communities are largely inadequate and dilapidated. Some children must walk long distances daily to attend school. Some schools lack libraries, computer centers, and trained teachers. In some places, health facilities either do not exist or are seriously under-resourced. Lack of access to health care is so serious in some communities that children and their families lose their lives from preventable and curable diseases such as malaria, worm infestation, and tuberculosis.

Sponsorship makes a tremendous impact on the lives of children and their communities. Children receive age-graded Bibles and learn God’s Word. As a result, many confess their faith in Christ and are able to demonstrate the love of God to other people.

Before one boy entered Compassion, his single mother could no longer take care of her children, so she abandoned them and left the community in search of a job. She could not find a job, yet she failed to return. When the child was registered, the center staff followed up on the mother and brought her back to the community. Not long after, her child’s sponsor sent them a family gift that she used to open a bookshop. Profit from selling books now serves as her regular source of income, and she is able to support her family.

Children have access to medical care and receive an annual comprehensive health screening, after which center staff follow up to ensure that all required care is done. Last year, several children had surgeries that their families couldn’t have afforded. Children receive everything necessary to stay in school (school uniforms, books, supplies, tuition fees, tutoring, etc.), and are also trained in income- generating skills such as sewing, bead-making, shoemaking, baking, etc.

When they graduate from the program, these children will be physically healthy and economically self-sustaining. Literacy rates will be higher. This coming year, we will focus on children’s water, sanitation and hygiene needs and also roll out a new youth development strategy. In addition to Compassion programs, our partner churches minister to the community through activities such as evangelism, community cleanups, and other outreach programs.

The exchange of letters between sponsors and their children creates a close bond between them. Encouraging words from sponsors mean so much to the children. They feel loved and treasured. The thought of having caring sponsors abroad who write to them makes them feel special. Children who do not receive letters from their sponsors look sad when their friends receive letters. These children always look forward to the day when their sponsors will also write to them; some actually pray about it. I wish to kindly request you to write to your sponsored child as often as possible. Children cherish the letters.

I am grateful for your deep love and concern for Oxford. Your sponsorship has opened the door of hope for the future of your child. We will continue to pray for God’s blessings for you and your family.

Thank you, Padmore Baffour Agyapong”

Letter from the Country Director of Guatemala

This week I’m sharing the Country Director letter from Guatemala. This one is especially near and dear to my heart, since I just traveled there in July, falling in love with the country and all Compassion is doing there. I will forever support and be an advocate for Compassion Guatemala, and I feel I’ll be back to visit one day, too. I hope so! I sponsor Evelin and Ingrid in GU.

guatemala-director-letter-2017

“Dear Alisa, My name is José Carlos Prem, and I have been the country director of Guatemala for eight years. I am a chemical engineer, and I also graduated from the Central American Theological Seminary.

Compassion started working in Guatemala after a terrible earthquake in 1976, and it was officially registered in 1989. We currently have almost 200 church partners that are helping us release more than 53,000 children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

I want to express how very grateful I am for your thoughtful sensitivity in ministering to Evelin and Ingrid in Guatemala. I feel certain that your contributions represent a decision you did not make quickly or lightly, and I want you to know how much it means to Evelin and Ingrid. I am able to see firsthand the work of Compassion in the most impoverished communities around the country. I see how our children speak and show the love of Jesus to their families and those around them. I have also seen how a timely intervention can save a child’s life.

I like to ask our children what they like best about attending a child development center. Many say that they get to play; some say that they like to hear Bible stories. But one child told me his favorite thing was getting a plate of food and being able to ask for a second one if he was still hungry.

This child was able to see God’s love through a plate of food, or in this case, two plates of food. Hunger is just one of the many problems our children and their families have to overcome daily. It is an overwhelming reality, but we decided to focus on five of our most urgent needs: violence, child abuse, malnutrition, parents’ unemployment, and poor access to health care.

Official statistics show that in our country, one out of two children under five has chronic malnutrition. Guatemala is the fifth most violent country in the world, and there are more than 3,500 reports of child abuse every year. More than half our population lives in poverty, and there is only one doctor for every 5,000 people. These facts are devastating and may discourage people, but for us they are a reminder that there are still many things we can do to continue the work that Jesus started here on earth.

In developmental work, resources are not always enough to meet the needs. That is why we are working with strategic alliances. Some of these alliances are providing purified water to distant communities and offering vocational training, counseling, pastor training, and youth discipleship.

Thanks to sponsors, all our efforts become more meaningful to these children. They know that somewhere in the world there is someone who cares about them. Letters are especially important in fostering this bond. As children grow, they understand how important a sponsor is to their lives. I met a little girl who lost both of her parents. When her sponsor found out, she decided to become a motherly figure and a role model for her little sponsored girl. In two years, the girl received dozens of letters, and she told me she felt the love of a mother through her sponsor’s words. It makes our children feel special and loved when they know someone took time to think of them and write them. Please write your child as often as possible.

Please pray for our future plans as we move toward growth in the ministry. In the last four years, we have grown from 30,000 to more than 53,000 children, and in the coming years, we are expecting even bigger growth.

Thank you for following God’s direction and for expressing, through your sponsorship, your devotion to Evelin and Ingrid.

Thankfully, José Carlos Prem”

 

Those 5 most urgent needs that he discusses are very much hallmarks of what they focus on. They represent each one with a different color in order to help remember them better. During our tour, we focused on and learned more about a different social problem, as our leader called them, each day. Each day, the leaders and translators would all wear the color of that problem, to further drive home the point and help link it with memory. We also received a multi-colored hacky sack ball among our gifts from the country office, which has each of these 5 colors on it. It’s a great reminder now, being home, of the social problems whenever I look at it. In addition to being the fifth most violent country in the world, Guatemala also has the fifth highest rate of malnutrition in the world (and the four above it are all from Africa). I was surprised to hear that, as well as many other statistics, but it shows just how important Compassion’s work in this country is- and they are doing an amazing job!

Letter from the Country Director of the Dominican Republic

This week I am sharing the Country Director letter from the Dominican Republic. I sponsor sweet Elaina there.

dominican-republic-director-letter-2017

“Dear Alisa, My name is Kleber Lora, and I am the Country Director of Compassion in the Dominican Republic. I joined Compassion in 2005 after a time of prayer, asking the Lord for an opportunity to serve the impoverished. My wife Layla and I have three children. Our older daughter came to us as a foster daughter when we were asked to be a transition home for her for a week. That time became 10 years! Now she is a teacher in a Christian school and has three beautiful children, my grandchildren.

Making a difference one child at a time is what Compassion has been doing in the DR for the last 46 years. My heart rejoices, knowing that we have reached so many children. Currently, more than 60,000 are receiving help through 175 church partners, thanks to sponsors like you. I am so grateful for your love and support for Elaina.

Some of our country-specific struggles include a high mortality rate in children under five and a high mortality rate for mothers in childbirth. Nearly 40 percent of the population is living in poverty, and 15 percent don’t have access to adequate drinking water.

Loren Eiseley wrote a story, often retold, about a man on a beach. He noticed someone else bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The other person was throwing starfish into the ocean, because the tide had washed them onto the beach, and they couldn’t return to the sea by themselves. In most versions, the observer tells the thrower he can’t possibly make a difference. The latter replies, after throwing another starfish as far as he could, ‘It made a difference for that one!’

This story reminds me of a boy who was found walking without shoes by a neighbor. His mother and grandmother had passed away; his father, cousin and aunt were working. The child slept on the floor; he used to eat at his neighbor’s. Nobody was taking care of him. That neighbor, who used to be a tutor in a Compassion child development center, saw his need and talents. She brought him to church. He found a sponsor, and now he has become a responsible, obedient Christian teenager who plays the piano at church and dreams of going to college. Isn’t it amazing how God uses us to change the life of a child?

As the children hear the Word of God, they have the opportunity to receive Jesus in their hearts, and their families do too. Our impoverished communities don’t have safe places for the children to play; they find that place at the center. Also, the children receive love, care, curriculum classes, meals and vocational training that equip them for a better future. This brings hope to our hearts.

The center is like the second home for the children, but having a sponsor is a unique blessing for each child. Children wait with all their heart for their sponsors’ letters. A sponsor becomes a friend that encourages them, tells them that they’re loved, that they are in their prayers, and also asks them in detail about their life, parents and school. This is a highlight of the program. I encourage you to write as often as possible.

Currently, in the DR we have more than 300 churches applying to open a Compassion center in their communities. In 2017, we want to provide new sponsorship opportunities to thousands of children in need in partnership with at least 16 new church partners. Also, after implementing more than 20 water-purification plants in the last five years, we want to help provide access to adequate water in at least three new communities in the next year.

Thank you for your commitment to help those who don’t have a voice. Thank you for your effort and support that make such a difference to Elaina. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him!

In Jesus, Kleber Lora”

Letter from the Country Director of Colombia

This week I’m sharing the letter from the Country Director of Colombia. The director, Jose Carrasco, mainly serves as the South America area director, but helps as country director with some of the South American countries, too. He is a very busy man, I’m sure! I really hope to be able to go to Colombia someday soon to meet Luna, who I sponsor there.

colombia-director-letter-2017

“Dear Alisa, Greetings in Jesus’ name! My name is Jose Carrasco. I am the South America area director, and I’ve been privileged to serve as the interim country director of Colombia since 2014. I was born in Peru. I am married to Laura, and we have two wonderful children, Jose Alonso and Natalia.

Compassion has been serving Colombia for 45 years. We currently have more than 240 child development centers in Colombia, and we are serving 77,000 children and youth. Through sponsors’ generous and selfless giving, children feel loved, cared for, nurtured and supported in many ways. You have made all this possible for Luna through your sponsorship and your prayers. You truly are making the difference in your child. Thank you so much!

Unlike a child who is not in a program, a sponsored child has a safe place to go each day. At the centers, children have the opportunity to learn about the love of Jesus and to identify their strengths, develop their gifts and talents, and overcome difficulties. They are taught, among other things, that they are special because they are children of God.

We do face struggles daily. Compassion serves Colombia’s most impoverished children and their families. The children are at high risk of sickness and even death in their early years. Every day, they are surrounded by violence, the absence of one of the parents, etc. They also face economic crisis, in which unemployment and the cost of living are extremely high, making life increasingly difficult for those who live in poverty. Lack of water and access to good medical attention is a daily struggle. Hospitals lack medicine and equipment. The families cannot turn to government education or its agencies, as these do not offer the help they require.

By God’s grace, we will continue to go forward and overcome any obstacle that presents itself. Compassion Colombia has improved its program and materials to better empower the church to fulfill its mission. Churches work hard and diligently to serve the children better through training, materials and mobilizing local resources. We are developing child protection networks and early childhood and youth development strategies so we can help more children to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. It happens when the church of Christ gets mobilized in prayer and action to intervene in children’s lives.

Nourishing the relationship between the sponsor and the child is of utmost importance. I encourage you to write letters. When a child receives a letter, it means more to a child than you will ever know. Your words really affect your child positively. Knowing that someone who lives so far away is praying and thinking about them makes children feel loved and appreciated.

I cannot express my gratitude for your sponsorship for Luna. Your giving has changed the destiny of your child, and that is priceless! My heart fills with joy as I express my appreciation and recognize your generous giving. May the Lord bless you and your family. We covet your prayers and promise also to pray on your behalf.

Sincerely in Christ, Jose Carrasco”