Today was a very different day than yesterday, but a very good day. We started with a morning off – a rare thing for us as we’re usually at church for most of the day. After lunch we gathered everything that people had brought as gifts for the projects, piled it all together and then divided it into four piles for the four projects we’re visiting. We all brought gifts for both our individual sponsor kids and families as well as lots of stuff for the projects, so it was cool to see the large piles by the end!
We then drove into Santa Domingo to visit another project, and this was the project where Richard (one of our sponsor children) attends. We saw him as soon as we walked into the church, standing by his mother and trying not to make eye contact. He is sever years old and as is typical, was both excited and very nervous – much like us! We hung around the church for a few minutes before heading off to see where he lives.
The house was distinctively nicer than the one we were at yesterday, and his family also seems to be a very good family. Richard has two younger brothers – one two and one five – both of whom were staying with their Grandmother for a month because both their father and mother had full time employment at the moment. His mother, Elizabeth, was clearly a very caring and good mother, coaxing him to speak up and graciously showing us around their home. The video crew was a bit of a distraction to Richard, but he warmed up a bit when I pulled out the ukulele I brought along and showed him how to strum it after playing Jesus Loves Me.
We asked lots of questions, but the one that’s sticking out was one we asked his mother: “How has Richard’s involvement in the Compassion project made a difference in his life and yours?” Her response was similar to the response we received yesterday, even though the living conditions were decidedly better. I’m paraphrasing a translation, but it was something like, “his attitude and behaviour have changed. He is getting into less trouble, wants to learn and pay attention to things and listens better.” Something about that struck both Rachel and I.
Obviously food, clothes and shelter are hugely important, but as parents we resonate with the fact that our children’s attitude and behaviour can be the thing that worries us most or brings us the most joy. A child with hope who wants to learn and grow can overcome almost anything, and the physical stuff almost fades into the background. This is the evidence of these programs working – the changes are so foundational that these children are changing profoundly.
It was so much fun. When we came back to the project, I spent half an hour playing around on the ukulele on the front steps while Richard and a few of his friends played around and took turns trying out the uke. Richard’s father showed up on a break from work as a security guard and we had the chance to meet him briefly and give him a box of food basics which we watch him amazingly balance on the back of his motorcycle (with no straps) as he headed down the very steep street. Richard’s family clearly loves him and do all they can to provide for him, and we’re honoured to be partnered with them in giving him a chance to improve things and have a better future.
We then headed back to the church for a snack with Richard, Elizabeth and the rest of our team and the staff at the church before heading in for the church service. It was another amazing experience – so many things familiar and similar to the church services I help to run weekly (the obvious heart of those involved in putting it together, the same struggles and joys with technical stuff and working with a team of musicians, the challenge of finding enough space for all for the people) but also many things that were slightly different like the passion with which people sung and engaged and the sheer number of people who PACKED themselves into the building despite the lack of space!
They greeted us and when they found out that we were a group of musicians, they invited us up on the spot to play something for the offering. We quickly looked at each other and figured we could pull off How Great Is Our God in G and off we went. It was amazing. The church gave us small gifts at the end and we took a picture with their worship team and gathered to pray for the staff of the project (which was at and very much a part of the church, as with all Compassion projects!) Again there are so many details I could write about and things I’m leaving out, but sleep is needed and these memories need to be pondered more. What a fantastic day.