Monday, June 1, 2009

Is This Thing Working? . . . .

Outcomes. That's a word we hear quite a bit in our current culture. People who invest their time and money want to know if those investments will pay dividends in results. . . . or outcomes. I often liken miraculous ministry outcomes marked by dividends that far exceed investors' expectations to "loaves and fishes" stories. You know. . . . the five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed 5,000 people. These are evidence of God's blessing and provision.

Saturday with Compassion International in Kenya was a day where I was excited to see what - if any outcomes - would be evident in their work with mothers and infants. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, what I saw was a modern-day miracle.

Believing that early childhood is a critical time for overall child development, brain growth, learning, and providing a foundation for later success in school and life, Compassion has instituted a rather innovative project called the Child Survival Program (CSP). The program combines education, nutritional supplements and health care to provide the greatest positive impact for needy children and their caregivers. Sounds great. But does it work?

After a trip down some typically bumpy dirt roads and into one of Nairobi's many slums, we arrived at the Ndumberi Child Development Center. A courtyard, playground, medical clinic, classrooms, and playrooms make up the facility. As facilities in this part of the world go, it's first-class. We were met by a group of colorfully dressed young mothers who were singing and dancing for us. . . with their babies strapped on their backs. After getting an overview of the program, hearing testimonies, and seeing the program in action, we divided on two groups to embark on a home visit.

Our group traveled to meet with 21-year-old Mary and her infant daughter at their tiny shack. If that's where I lived, I can't imagine not complaining. The joy in Mary's heart, however, overflowed onto the permanent smile on her face. Mary's husband was out working. She was at home caring for her daughter and running her "store." The store is a small window at one end of her house. She began her little business with $5 her husband gave her. She buys and then resells things like vegetables, candy, and tea. Over the course of month Mary makes anywhere from $5 to $7, which is enough to pay the monthly rent on their house.
Compassion teaches Mary how to be a mom. We even saw the CSP's health care director show Mary how to treat the kinds of burns that are common among children whose families cook over open fires. Mary showed us how she cares for her little garden that Compassion has taught her how to grow in burlap bags. We then went outside while Mary stayed inside to show us her store. Doug suggested to me that we purchase some things from Mary. We bought some small candy to hand out to the audience of kids who had gathered to see what the white people were doing in the village. . . .and to touch Lisa's white skin and blond hair! Altogether, our little purchases and the "tip" we left with Mary wound up equalling about two months of the store's income. Her smile got even bigger!

Through the work of Compassion, Mary and a host of other young mothers like her are being nurtured physically, relationally, and spiritually. They love Jesus, they love their children, and their lives have been transformed in amazing ways.

Again, I am amazed to see the outcomes of Compassion's work. God is using the very little and limited donations of the rich, to transform the lives of the poor. Nothing on Wall Street could even come close. There's no downturn with these investments. Is this thing working? You bet.

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