We spend all morning with the kids, singing songs, playing games and attending church. After the service, the staff at the Compassion center begin unfolding long tables and setting out chairs around them. Someone tells me that we are staying to have lunch with the kids. Large trays of food are set out along the buffet table. The air smells of sweet plantains and seasoned rice and beans. The staff and volunteers at the Compassion center serve us with a sincere generosity unlike anything I have seen. Scooping heaping portions on our paper plates, they give without concern for whether or not there will be enough.
The middle of my plate sags with the weight of the food. We will not leave hungry. There is more than enough.
We struggle a bit through conversation with the children, relaying things to our translators and waiting for the relayed response. Conversation is slow and laborious but hospitality flows smoothly in this space.
Part of the Child Sponsorship program at Compassion includes regular meals for the children. It’s a basic physical need that helps open the children up to hearing the Gospel.
After lunch, we wind down the hill and into the maze of sideways houses stacked awkwardly against each other, none of them have glass in the windows or locks on the door. All are welcome, they tell us; “What we have, we share”. Clearly this is true, as I’m carrying around a stomach full of the proof that these are a people who have generous hands.
The kitchen at the first house we see consists of little more than a small gas stove and a small refrigerator that looks at least 40 years old. There is no table, no chairs to sit in. The kitchen, is in fact, in the main room. She apologizes shyly for the “mess” of her home, but there is no mess, because there are no things.
Later we climb our way up to another home, and immediately I notice the kitchen. This one is slightly more equipped than the one before but I wonder still, how one manages to feed a family of seven at a small table with only 3 chairs. I see a stove, and an old, tiny microwave, but this kitchen lacks counter space.
There is in fact, no counter.
I wonder how she prepares her meals. Where does she chop vegetables? Do they even have access to vegetables? I don’t know, and I can’t bring myself to ask.
All of the times I’ve whined about the shape of my own kitchen at home, haunt me in these moments. She manages to feed her family with what she has, and the knowledge that her children are fed also by Compassion encourages her, and eases ever so slightly the concerns about their health and well being.
I notice all of the things crammed inside of the oven. Only the stove top works. The inside of the stove serves as a substitute for cupboard.
Pots and pans are piled up on the floor, a bucket holding waste buzzes with flies. When I notice the dirty dishes on the stove top, it occurs to me that this kitchen also lacks a sink.
The effect of Compassion’s generosity and provision in this community is evident. The commitment Compassion makes to feeding the people in their program, builds a bridge from filling hungry bodies to being able to pour into starving souls. When immediate physical needs are met, the Gospel can be more effectively shared because the experience of being fed not only demonstrates the heart of the gospel, but also affirms the love that Compassion expresses for the people they come into contact with.
Child sponsorship through Compassion is a unique, holistic approach to practicing biblical hospitality. As a sponsor you can become part of this mission to end the cycle of poverty, and feed children who are not only starving physically, but also spiritually. This is the greatest offering we can manage–to love our neighbors well, by feeding them in every way.
Pull out a chair for someone new at your table. Choose a child to share your love and the love of Christ with, and nourish them, body and soul.