Just before COVID-19 shut down the world, I was in the Philippines with Compassion Australia.
I met a number of beautiful families who are facing incredible hardship due to extreme poverty.
The first family I met was that of Marinessa and Joey, a young couple, both 25 years of age, who have 4 children. The family of six live in a small shanty made of rusted iron sheets, about 2 metres by 2 metres. Their home is next to a pile of rubbish in the shadow of the local cemetery. The landlord keeps threatening to raise the cost of the land they use which would essentially see them losing everything.
Their 3-year-old son, John Miguel, had just been registered with Compassion. I knew that finding John a sponsor would make an incredible difference for the whole family.
Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video about their story.
I know that life would have become even harder for this family since the pandemic. Can I ask you to consider sponsoring a child like John and bring hope into their life? Please sponsor a child today.
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I was only away for a week, but I came back to a very different Australia to the one I left.
Before I left, concerns were growing rapidly over COVID-19. Even at that stage a lot of travellers were cancelling their plans. There was nervousness in the community.
People were starting to stock up on what they considered to be essential items.
In the days before I flew out, hand sanitiser was nowhere to be found and there were empty spaces in shops and pharmacies where there used to be face masks.
I left Australia bound for the Philippines on the 3rd of March to see Compassion’s work in action. Within a couple of days, people back home seemed to be ratcheting up the panic.
Social media kept me up to date with life in my home country … and it wasn’t pretty.
To be fair, COVID-19 is a pretty big deal and will continue to be for quite some time. There’s a very real need for concern and more than that, for action. I can’t blame people for protecting themselves and those they love.
The difficulty for me was sitting with beautiful, courageous families who are living in makeshift shelters, with no electricity, running water or toilets, and then seeing videos in my Facebook feed of people in Australian supermarkets fighting over toilet rolls.
COVID-19 is stripping away our choices. It is tearing at our security. It is bringing unquestionable pain in the form of job losses, failing businesses, loss of connection and so much more.
When life eventually returns to normal, it will be a radically different kind of normal.
For many, there won’t be the opportunity to pick up where we left off. Unemployment is likely to be the long-term reality for many who previously had secure jobs. Many businesses will be unable to weather this storm and simply won’t be around when the virus has been defeated.
On top of all that comes the anxiety and the disconnection that comes with our isolation. Video catch ups don’t give hugs.
Many of us are likely to either be infected with the virus or be close to people who will suffer from COVID-19. Even worse, some of us will lose loved ones to this horrible virus.
In the midst of all of this, my heart is breaking for the children Compassion serves. Together with their families they are facing even greater risks.
In a time when we’re all feeling vulnerable, I really hope you’ll spare a thought, a prayer, and maybe even a gift for these children. They are the most vulnerable of all.
Past President of Compassion International, Wess Stafford spoke about the vulnerability of children in his book, Too Small to Ignore. While we are hearing that this virus is most deadly for the elderly, I think the paragraphs here still carry a lot of weight.
No matter what the setting, children seem to be a second-rate mandate. No matter what the ill of society, it tends to spiral downward and eventually land with its cruelest and most smothering impact on our littlest citizens.
Small, weak, helpless, innocent, vulnerable, and trusting, they are the waiting victims for our simple neglect and most evil abuse.
No matter what goes wrong, the little ones pay the greatest price.
When hunger and famine strike a nation, adults become weak and hungry, but it is the children who most often starve to death. When disease arrives with all its fury, adults can become very sick, but the first to die are usually the children.
When war erupts over ethnicity or boundary lines in the dust, it is the littlest victims who pay the most tragic price. The wars of the last decade killed more children than soldiers.
Far more children were injured or permanently maimed by our battles. The tragedies go on for years after the last gunshot or grenade blast, as land mines and booby-trapped toys keep wounding, terrorizing, and killing our innocent ones.
The ritual sacrifice of children has been taboo for thousands of years. Yet tragically it is practiced every day across our world.
We sacrifice children on the altars of our most destructive sins. When the sickness of pornography has run to its most evil and destructive end, it takes the form of child pornography.
When prostitution reaches its sickest, most depraved form, it becomes child prostitution. Perhaps a little closer to home is the reality that children are the sacrificial lambs when our homes break up through neglect, anger, hostility, and eventually divorce.
Kids frequently blame themselves for the destruction, carrying deep scars on their innocent spirits for a lifetime.
The last thing I would want to do is minimise the situation we all find ourselves in right now. We’re here through no fault of our own and we are not in control. That’s scary … and it’s pretty much how a lot of those in extreme poverty live their entire lives.
I would simply ask that as we face this unprecedented interruption to our lives, we consider those most vulnerable in our world. Children living in extreme poverty.
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Over the last few days I’ve heard incredible stories of transformation as I’ve been part of a group visiting the work of Compassion in Manila, Philippines. I’ve had the privilege of traveling here with some former colleagues from 98five. They’re taking the opportunity to tell Perth listeners about the people we’re meeting and the life change we’ve seen.
One of the people we’ve met is Maritess, the mother of a child being sponsored through Compassion. They live in extreme poverty. Their monthly rent is around AU$60, yet it’s a struggle to make those payments and they live constantly with the fear of being thrown out of their tiny home.
Maritess thanks God that he used one person to change her life. She said that it was her son becoming registered with Compassion that helped her decide to start attending the local Wesleyan Church which partners with Compassion.
She explains some of the change in her life in her own words.
Before, I always fought with my neighbours and my favourite pastime is gambling. It is also the means of my family’s living as I worked as a jueteng lady (illegal number games in the Philippines). Everyday was a burden for me because I am not content with what we have. I always nagged my husband for our tight budget and I was often getting angry with my children. I would hit them with a coat hanger to the point that it was broken on their bodies.
Little by little I came to know Christ and all the blessings that came to my family. My Christian life was not easy and because of the help and trust of our Lord Jesus Christ it changed my vision that I must trust God because he is the one who gave me my life when I accept him as my personal Saviour I changed my life. If you accept God you don’t have to worry in what you need because everything will be given.
Maritess said she felt the love of our God because all her prayers were answered according to his will. She says her family is doing well they are able to provide for their children’s education.
Now me and my family accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour and became covenant members of the church. My ministry is being a 3 years treasurer in women’s ministry and leader in independence area bible study and I thank God for this ministry
I love the fact that while Compassion is working specifically to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, it’s not only the children who benefit. Families and communities are being transformed.
The story Maritess shared with us is just one of many transformational stories we’ve heard in the short time we’ve been here. I’ll write about more of those stories in the coming days.
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We hear a lot about ‘reality television’ these days but I still reckon radio is a great way to convey real stories. You don’t need a full production crew with cameras everywhere to capture reality for radio. A small audio recording device is a lot less intrusive than a camera or three and so people can tend to open up a lot more. Of course, having worked in radio for over 25 years I’m probably biased.
In 2008 I saw the work of Compassion for the first time when I was invited to travel to Haiti and Dominican Republic. Back then I was working for 98five, hosting the morning program. (The picture above was taken in Dominican Republic.)
Even though it’s been over two years since I moved out of radio and began working for Compassion Australia, tomorrow I’m hopping on a plane and heading to Manila in the Philippines with a team from 98five. Next week they’ll be broadcasting from Manila to tell the story of how Compassion is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.
Our upcoming trip has revived memories from that very first trip where I was gathering stories about Compassion to be used on radio. Today I want to highlight just one of the stories that came out of the trip in 2008.
I’ve interviewed dozens of famous singers, authors, personalities, politicians and celebrities over the years but if I had the chance to choose one moment from my radio career that stands high above the others it is the opportunity to tell Ada’s story.
The story of this young girl will break your heart then give you renewed hope in the difference that each one of us can make in the lives of others.
I beg you to take just fourteen minutes to listen to Ada’s story. I know that for many, setting aside fourteen minutes is too much to ask. If you’re one of the few who takes the time, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.
If you want to hear something to lift your spirits just click play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.
The whole story is worth hearing but I’ll warn you now that it will really start to touch your heart around half way through.
Ada is a girl I met and interviewed in Dominican Republic. She was a beautiful twelve year old with a bright future. I wish I could show you the picture I had taken with the two of us but I prefer to keep her identity somewhat private. You’ll understand why as you listen.
I talked to Ada, I visited her home and talked to her parents. I’m sure that all of us that visited her home on that day will remember the warm hug she gave each one of us as we left. She was a remarkable young girl.
I managed to track down her sponsor in Australia and shared Ada’s story with her. Lisa’s reaction to hearing her sponsored child’s voice is priceless. Hearing Lisa describe how she feels when she hears just how much of an impact she has had on Ada’s life is inspiring.
I don’t know what else I can say but to again beg that you take the time to hear this amazing story. If you do take the time, please let me know.
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