Nicole is an inspiration to me. She is married to my nephew Brian and definitely is a “niece,” not just an in-law. Nicole is a sweetheart and inspires many people. She is the mommy of three young children, works full-time and is going to school, as well, to be a nurse someday. As if that was not enough, Nicole is also an activist in trying to do all she can to help the poor and needy of this world. She is an advocate for Living Waters (an organization that provides wells, water purification, etc for peoples around the world who have no clean water); Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International; our local Women’s Center; March of Dimes; Women at Risk and the Starfish Project (both groups that help women and children enslaved in human trafficking.) As a leader in our church’s MOPs group (Mothers of Preschoolers) she has been a source of encouragement and education to other young mothers.
Brian and Nicole are not rich–far from it. They struggle to make ends meet, but that does not stop Nicole. When she sees or hears of a need near her, she gives whatever she can to help fill that need, whether it be clothes, household goods, food… She has garage sales periodically to raise money for her causes, selling off her own possessions to give to others. “We have too much ‘stuff’,” she says, although they live very modestly. She is raising her children to care for others, as well. When they had birthday parties last year, they asked the guests to give money for Compassion International in lieu of gifts for them so that they could help a poor child somewhere else in the world. How could you not be inspired by that?
When you first meet Nicole, you might think she is shy. She is soft-spoken and does not seek attention for herself. When she is speaking up for one of these causes in which she believes, however, she finds the courage and poise to stand up before hundreds, presenting the need and promoting the organization eloquently and without hesitation. It is not just “social” needs that move her, but most importantly, the commission to take the Gospel throughout the world. Nicole cannot go herself, but works tirelessly to stand behind those who can. This is her gift from God. This is her gift to God.
One of Nicole’s charities has been dear to my own heart for many years as well. Compassion International, in response to the Great Commission, helps more than two million children and their families around the world physically, economically and especially spiritually. Our own daughters Laurie and Julie both worked for Compassion at the headquarters in Colorado Springs, so we were aware of their good work and impeccable reputation decades ago. We had sponsored a child in the past, but it has been many years since then and recently the Lord had been speaking to my heart about it.
Nicole has inspired me to become involved again with Compassion International, but other things have influenced me, as well. Julie and David adopted two teenagers from the Ukraine this last year. Their adoption journey opened my eyes anew to what Jesus said about caring for orphans and the poor and needy. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
I saw firsthand what being truly poor and needy means when I visited Laurie and Fernando’s family in Ecuador. I will never forget the poor Indian woman I encountered one day on the streets of Cuenca. She was begging for money to feed herself and her two little ones. The baby had a burlap diaper; the two-year-old wore only a t-shirt and simply peed on the ground. I still see in my mind’s eye the destitute children up in remote areas of the Andes mountains who came running when they saw our car making its way up the road to pass out Christmas gifts. Their parents came to the car, as well, thanking us profusely and begging us not to forget them. I saw the shacks that they called home with their dirt floors, pieced-together tin roofs and walls. I saw them plowing nearly vertical sloped fields with an old wooden plow. We have so much, even in our greatest need, and they have nothing.
It is not enough to be emotionally moved by the need we see around us. It is not enough, even, to be convicted that we are to answer the call to help those in need. It is not enough to talk about it, but we must take action and put feet, hands and heart to the compassion we feel for others. The Bible says, “ But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:17-18) I feel guilty for the time I have let pass between the “thinking about it” and the actual “doing.” In the meantime, a real child has lived with poverty every day, day by day.
I got my Compassion child this week. His name is Pedro and he is 10 years old. He lives in the southern section of Guayaquil, Ecuador called Batallón del Suburbio. I have been through Guayaquil and I have seen the types of houses these kids live in—dirt floors, brick or wood walls, corrugated iron roofs. The adults work in factories or as fishermen. Pedro’s father gets work sometimes as a laborer. Common health problems in the area are anemia, parasites, malaria, skin diseases and typhoid. Because Pedro will be supported through Compassion International he will receive Bible teaching, nutritional food, education, medical care, and vocational training among other “fun” things like games and celebrations. His parents will be reached through evangelism and special meetings.
How will our support of Pedro impact his life? I don’t know, but God does. We prayed that God would place just the child He wants us to help into our hands, and we trust now that He has intersected our lives to make a difference for Pedro—and for us, as well. I know sponsoring Pedro will be as much a blessing to us as it will be to Pedro, if not more. There is even a chance that someday we may meet Pedro as we fly in and out of Guayaquil when we go to visit Laurie and Fernando and their kids.
I do not share this with you to toot our own horn. As I said, I am ashamed that it has taken us this long to finally do it. Rather, I simply want to remind us all that Jesus wants us to be “compassion in action.” As part of the body of Christ we are to be His hands, His feet, His heart to love and care for others in His name. Nicole does not have much money to give, but she gives of her time and talent, and creatively finds ways to raise the money to give, encouraging others along the way to do likewise. This is not an option for the believer, but part of the work we are to do for the Lord until His return. Let us be faithful in sharing the compassion and love of Christ in real, tangible ways.
She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20
But you see the trouble and grief…The helpless put their trust in You. You defend the orphans. Psalm 10:14
Help Him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy. Psalm 72:4a
He will rescue the poor when they cry to Him; He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. Psalm 72:12
For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9
But You are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. Isaiah 25:4a
He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
You can find out more about Compassion International, or even sponsor a child, by going to http://www.compassion.com/default.htm or calling (800) 336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT.