GUILT, HOPE, AND COMPASSION

I have been thinking a lot about some interesting discussion that has taken place since the Kingdom Economy conference. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that it was highly academic but overall, a great conference as the variety allowed me to stay fully engaged throughout the day.

One of the presentations at the event was given by Shaun Groves. Shaun is a singer/songwriter that performs and speaks on behalf of Compassion International, a child aide organization. The discussion that has sprung up around this presentation has been centered on the idea of evoking guilt to manipulate people into supporting Compassion.

Shaun spoke about his experience of transformation that led him to simplify his life so he could help more children. His talk included some pictures of dire poverty conditions and other pictures of children who are a part of a Compassion project. These pictures were like night and day. At the same time it was painful and hopeful. After the talk , Shaun played a song as volunteers walked the isles holding packets with pictures of kids that people could sponsor. I only saw a handful of people take packets and didn’t think much of it. To me, it felt tasteful and brief.

My wife and I sponsor a child through Compassion and I was challenged by Shaun’s message but didn’t feel called to take on another child at that time. The call to action was painted with broad strokes with Shaun saying, “this is one of a million ways you can give”. I considered what I had to give and where I should give it. This is an ongoing question that I try to ask myself. It can be so easy miss opportunities to serve others and turn inward.

In what some people saw as manipulation, I saw a story of a hurting world in need of help. This is a story that many people would love to ignore. Maybe it’s even a story that some people aren’t even aware of. I was talking with a friend the other day who always says “I’m not really a big social justice guy” but was moved to help suffering children after watching an episode of American Idol. He saw a story that moved him and responded. Now someone’s life will be changed because of his gift.

To me that’s what Compassion is all about, offering hope to children and opportunities for us to be God’s agents of that hope. A few year’s back, my wife and I went to see one of our favorite bands, Caedmon’s Call. They had a Compassion table at the show and we decided to sponsor a second child. We made this decision before anyone gave the “spiel”.  We had been looking for another opportunity to give and decided that the time was right.

Maybe the people who took the Compassion packets at the Kingdom Economy conference were feeling guilty. Or maybe it was something else. Maybe they were already on a journey before they got to Toronto that day. Maybe God was growing a desire in them to serve the poor and stirred them to respond to something that was already going on in their spirit.

Maybe I’m naïve. But here’s what I do know; the stories of hope springing up from the work of Compassion are enough to keep me writing my check every month. Every time I see someone take one of those packets from a table or at a concert, I know there is a reason to be joyful.

Hope has sprung and that hope leads to gratitude. If you want to see what that looks like, watch this:

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