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A discussion with Compassion Canada CEO - Barry Slauenwhite
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By Mike Toth


Have you ever had that moment when the distinct details of your life seem to come together in beautiful symmetry, when things just start to make sense? Those moments are all the sweeter when symmetry seems impossible. For Barry Slauenwhite one of those moments led to 30 years in ministry with Compassion Canada.

"I was pastoring when my wife and I developed a love for missions, but we also developed a love for children at risk. Those two don’t normally go together as missions usually focuses on adults, while ministries reaching at risk children are usually local. We didn’t know how that was going to work out," says Slauenwhite.

"I met for lunch with Dave MacLeod who was the president of Compassion Canada at the time and was looking for a speaker and PR guy to support the ministry. When David told me about Compassion I thought it was too good to be true. This was the first time I saw the two together."

Over the years Compassion Canada has not waivered from the mission of reaching children at risk. Part of the reason they have been able to do that is they stay focused on prayer and relationships with churches, both at home and overseas. “We could be 3-4 time bigger without a doubt, but we don't hire outside marketing, or accept government funding.”

Relief and foreign aid organizations have been criticized in some areas due to the perception that they create local dependence on the organizations while doing little to permanently change the lives of the people they are serving. Compassion tries to combat this by developing a three-way relationship between itself, the local church, and the family of the sponsored child.

WHEN I GROW UP (VIDEO)




"There are no handouts. Everyone has to bring something to the table. For sponsored children with families we ask: 'What can the family bring to the table?' Can you volunteer once a week to help prepare the meals at church? Can your husband help with the upkeep of the church building?

Having the family invest in the ministry helps them with their sense of self-esteem. I remember the look on the face of one young father who was bringing a chicken to share with everyone at the community meal. That chicken represented a significant financial investment, but he was filled with pride at being able to share with the community.”

A fourth part of that relationship is the child’s sponsor. Sponsoring a child living in poverty, and being engaged through correspondence helps to change the skewed western world-view society has, and has passed down to our children.

"We encourage families to make letter writing a family affair, to keep the picture of the sponsored child on the fridge, and to pray together as a family for their child. Some families sponsor a child for each of their children to help their children engage as missionaries at a young age."

When a child is sponsored through Compassion all the money is spent on the child and the organization continues to work with a child if they lose their sponsorship. There are other needs in the communities in which Compassion has relationship that people can get involved in on an ad hoc basis. The Compassion Christmas catalogue at www.compassion.ca/shop/ is an excellent way to impact a child's world by purchasing sporting equipment, entrepreneurial training, music lessons, mosquito netting, etc. The list is long, and the opportunities to help vary from exceedingly ambitious to so modest a child could fund by saving part of an allowance.

Slauenwhite believes that the continued success of Compassion is directly due to the fact that the organization has maintained its’ Christ centeredness throughout, even when it would have made more sense financially to soften things up a bit. He even has some proof along those lines.

"We recently did a research project in which we polled 10,000 adults who had been sponsored as children, and we asked them what the greatest benefit they received from Compassion was? We were stunned when almost 100% of them said that the greatest benefit they received from Compassion was that they were introduced to Jesus. They said they appreciated the food and all the other benefits that came from sponsorship, but that without Christ their lives wouldn’t have been changed."

I encourage you to go to www.compassion.ca this Christmas season and pray about how you can help to change the life of a child at risk.