Tag Archives: Poverty

Greatness Starts with Small Beginnings

“Our sincere words and our honest attitudes will impact the life of a child forever.”


Throughout my journeys, this principle has become a reality. And in my encounter with the youngest children of various communities, I have been able to testify that wit, intelligence and creativity are a natural part of the human being, regardless of their ethnic group or origin.

Dany dusted off an old camera and started to dream of the magic world of photography!

Dany dusted off an old camera and started to dream of the magic world of photography!

Sometimes having a conversation with a child can often be more difficult than with an adult. That eagerness to learn more through countless questions – some are difficult to answer, by the way – is what allows children to expand their world, to grow, to develop an extraordinary intellect.

Of course, as we know, not all the children have these opportunities, many of them are limited and they come across major hurdles that hinder them to thrive in their learning and eventually become adults with great skills.

The environment of poverty and extreme poverty in which many children live around the world, is the biggest obstacle they face. An environment that represents not only the lack of financial resources and all that it entails, but especially the lack of a healthy and motivating atmosphere, an atmosphere that may push them to grow and explore a wider world, full of opportunities, the opportunities that their parents certainly, did not have.

However, and although this reality is the mark of countless communities, it is so rewarding to come

This little girl´s curiosity will surely help her to make her dreams come true

This little girl´s curiosity will surely help her to make her dreams come true

across little kids whose wit, intelligence and creativity still has much potential, which fortunately, has not yet been cut short. Yes! A lot of potential, for those who have the chance to interact with them and their families, we are instruments of transformation and we contribute, so that one day they will reach their full potential and make evident their greatness that already exists in them.

How? Very easy! Our sincere words and our honest attitudes will impact the life of a child forever. Wess Stafford, former CEO of Compassion International, states it this way: “The spirit of a little child is a lot like wet cement. When a child is young it takes little effort to make an impression that can last a lifetime.”

Sebas, a rebellious boy for some; for me, a clever boy who needs guidance and motivation in life

Sebas, a rebellious boy for some; for me, a clever boy who needs guidance and motivation in life



Let us remember! Our tongue has the power of life and death, to build and destroy… let us use it to sow life, and life in abundance. The next time you find a child, regardless of either their origin or their condition, speak to them words of life and encourage them to pursue their dreams through hard work, with honesty and passion. There is surely greatness in the heart of every little child!



Photography:  Cecilia Yépez & courtesy of Tim Neeves.

Peace and Adversity, Beauty and Pain…just in one place?

“If there is a loving God who created us, then he ought to be distraught at the state of the world.”

                                                                                         Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld, writer

Amber Van Schooneveld, writer



Amber is the senior writer and editor for Compassion Canada. Before, she worked for Compassion International, as editorial manager of writers and photographers in the field. Amber has always had a sensitive heart to the suffering in the world. When she was a child, she would cry when other children would kill ants. Since then, she has moved on to be moved by greater suffering in the world. Amber is the author of Hope Lives and Passport to Prayer, both aimed at helping people know God’s heart for the suffering in this world and to take action. She has a degree in English from Colorado State University and lives in Colorado with her wonderful family.



Is it possible for peace and adversity, for poverty and wealth, for beauty and pain to fill this world at once?
Sometimes, sitting in my peaceful home in Colorado, enjoying the lovely scenery, having a hearty family meal together and watching my children play with each other, the images you watch in the news of war, disaster and extreme poverty can seem inconceivable. How is it that I, even with all of life’s pains, disappointments and inconveniences, can live in such security when so many others, Syrian war refugees, for example, live in such fear and deprivation? It boggles the mind.

Yet we all know that this is indeed the state of the world. But none of our experiences are all good or all bad. Even in my secure and peaceful life, I’m not sheltered from the pain of cancer or suicide. And those living in extreme poverty also can still have the joy of family and the beauty of God’s creation. All, or at least, most of us experience both great beauty and love and heartbreaking pain and loss.


In your several journeys throughout developed and developing countries, what has caught your attention in regards to this phenomenon?
Returning home to the US after traveling to a developing country, I’m almost always struck by how

Amber, author of "Hope lives"

Amber, author of “Hope lives”

people don’t realize how good we have it. Living in a relatively affluent place, it’s easy to look around at those wealthier than you and believe that you are just barely making it. Few of us have the context to understand the luxury we live in because we aren’t surrounded by the alternative of people who do not have running water, adequate food, safe homes or access to banking, medical care, insurance or social safety nets.

On the other hand, I’m always struck by how similar we all are, no matter what country we are from. People are people. There are significant cultural differences, but I believe at our core we are all far more alike than we are different. We have the same desires, to be loved, to be safe, and to see our children and families thrive.


Is it God’s responsibility (if there is a God) or man’s responsibility for all the tragedies this world is experiencing?

I would say it is both. If there is a loving God who created us, then he ought to be distraught at the state of the world. And the Bible tells us that He is. (For example, In Luke 19, it is recorded that Jesus wept over the suffering that was to come to Jerusalem. And throughout the Old Testament it says that God hears the cry of the oppressed.) So the most challenging question that has ever been asked is, why does a loving God allow so much suffering? It’s not a question I can presume to answer well, and I don’t think it’s one we will fully understand on this side of eternity.

Many Christians have answered the question of suffering by saying that God uses our suffering to strengthen our faith and draw us toward Him. While we know that God uses suffering, both from experience and from passages like Romans 5:3-5, I don’t think this answer is the whole story. It can lead to bad theology, for example, someone asserting that God caused a child to die in order to teach a mother a lesson about faith. For me, the truth that I cling to when staggered by the suffering in the world is that God created a world in which there is free will because He wanted to create a world of loving relationships. For love to exist, free will is necessary, meaning man is free to do both good or evil. God says He has a plan to redeem the evil that is perpetrated in this world, but just like a tapestry that is beautiful on one side and tangled on the other, it is hard to see the sense of so much suffering in our limited perspective.

But throughout the Bible, God says that we are also responsible to answer to the suffering in the world. He calls us to speak out for justice, to break the chains of the oppressed and to help those in poverty. Although we don’t understand why suffering is allowed, we do know that God calls us to be active in stamping it out of this world. In fact, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that God has prepared good works for us to do in advance! What a huge honor that God values us so much as to allow us to be His hands in actively bringing peace, justice and equality to the world.


As surely we cannot close our eyes and say that this world is a “paradise,” is there any hope?

Amber, in one of her trips, sharing with two little Indian girls

Amber, in one of her trips, sharing with two little Indian girls

Though we can’t fully understand why God allows so much suffering, I often think back to Genesis 16, in which God noticed the suffering of Hagar, a servant. When she was dying in the desert, God saw her need and helped her, which led her to call Him “the God who sees.” In the midst of our suffering, we are never alone. God says He is close to the broken hearted. He sees the pain of the world, He listens to the cries of the oppressed, and He calls all of us to be active in being His hands in offering comfort, succor, love and physical help to this world.

A Woman of Fire and Passion for the Needy

“When I was a child, my mother did not want me. She told me as much and was often verbally and physically rough. Many nights, I would lie in the dark, small & afraid, with only God to protect me.


                Michel (Shelly) DeLisle

Shelly DeLisle

Shelly DeLisle

Shelly, as she likes to be called is a Christian believer who was born in Waukegan , Illinois, USA. Shelly studied Interpersonal Communications/International Affairs at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI where she also played Division I volleyball & ran Division I track. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication, she joined the Peace Corps and served as an agroforestry volunteer in Niger, West Africa.

Upon returning, Shelly continued traveling as an international flight attendant until she married Jim, currently the Vice President of Manufacturing at Imperial Printing. Shelly also worked for the American Red Cross & the YMCA of Metro Milwaukee as corporate training specialists and had the first two of her three beautiful daughters before she became a volunteer firefighter. This led to being hired as the first female firefighter for the Wauwatosa Fire Department in 1998. She was promoted to paramedic and then lieutenant, was the HazMat team leader and a member of the special rescue team.

Furthermore, Shelly earned a Master’s of Science in Organizational Development & Leadership from Saint Joseph University in Philadelphia, PA.

For the past 20 years, Michel DeLisle has traveled and led mission teams, humanitarian aid teams, and disaster response teams through many agencies such as: Lutheran World Relief, Red Cross, Harvest International, Compassion, CMF, Missions of Hope, Pwoje Espwa, etc. In the church, she has been the Christian Ed Director, Mission Coordinator & Vacation Bible School Director over the years.

Shelly, her husband Jim and their three daughters, Madisson, Dylan and Colleen are all actively involved in service, both overseas and in the US.

Shelly, tell us a bit about your experience as firefighter in the US. How long did you serve as such and what are the most three relevant lessons for life that you learned?

I became a volunteer firefighter in 1995 after treating one of my daughters for a severe injury. We had called the fire department and they thought I had the correct training and temperament. From there, I went on to become a professional firefighter and the first female on the Wauwatosa Fire Department, a large urban/suburban department. I was trained as a paramedic as well and eventually promoted to lieutenant. I served on the special rescue teams & was the HazMat team leader. I learned many things, but here are three very relevant lessons:
1. Never sacrifice a person for a process: this means that no policy, action, procedure should come before the value of another person, their confidence, or their well-being.
2. Be accountable for all of your speech, your actions, & your promises. Being tired, hungry, angry, stressed, etc. is no excuse to treat or speech to someone else poorly.
3. Sometimes, things are out of our hands. Be humble enough to accept that.

Certainly, saving lives has its risks! Shelly, we know you began develop upper respiratory problems in 2010. Tell us about your health condition and how did it affect your involvement in firefighting?

In 2010, I began to suffer from bronchitis & respiratory issues each time I fought a fire. I would have chest tightness, a cough, & sometimes it would require medical treatment. I always recovered after a few days. In November of 2012, I fought two house fires in the same week. After the first one, on a Tuesday, I had chest tightness and a cough. I worked Thursday and Saturday of that week, all 24 hours

Shelly, the first female on the Wauwatosa Fire Department

Shelly, the first female on the Wauwatosa Fire Department

shifts, and by Saturday had begun to cough phlegm out of my lungs. On Sunday morning, as my shift ended, we received another call for smoke in a residence. I knew my lungs were not healthy enough to put on breathing apparatus, but my relief was not in yet and so I went. This was the last fire I ever fought. I had a short shift that night at the firehouse and my cough became worse and I could not breathe. I left the firehouse and went right to a doctor for a breathing treatment. She told me then I would never fight another fire. I refused to believe her. For about 5 weeks, I was able to move only from the bed to a chair and back. I could barely sit up to braid my daughter’s hair. It was exhausting and painful to just try to take a breath. It was hard not to despair. My youngest daughter told me later that this is where her relationship with God really deepened. She said she prayed everyday that her mom would live and when God answered her prayers and I began to get better, she realized that God was real!

After a couple of months, I could walk to the end of our driveway to get the mail and realized that my life had changed for good. I argued with every doctor and begged to go back to firefighting. Not one doctor would approve me. The fire department terminated my employment because I was not healthy enough to fight fires, something that is not legal in the US. They fought me in court and my family endured financial hardship at a time when we had two daughters in college. But every time we thought we would miss a house payment or risk losing our home, God would provide. He would send money from other firefighters to cover our costs. He sent scholarships to cover our daughters’ tuition. At first I worried, but after a few months realized that God provides. Our youngest received a music scholarship so she could continue taking violin lessons. Each time we thought we had run out of money, it would appear. As God says, does worry add even one day to our life? If He cares for the lilies and the sparrows, will He not care for us? We are at peace with our situation. We have faith that God has a plan.

The fire department initially told me I could not work anywhere else and that I should not even volunteer; something that had been a large part of my family’s life before the illness. I told them that they could control my employment, but could not control who I was. I was “service.”

Since developing lung disease and having to leave firefighting, I split time between many important organizations. I am the part time Special Events Coordinator for Interfaith Senior Programs in Waukesha; an organization that helps seniors and people of all ages with disabilities remain independent in their homes and places them as volunteer in the schools as student mentors. I also serve as the Communications & Development Director for Just One More, an inner city ministry that rescues food, repackages it and distributes it to the hungry, homeless, needy & home bound serving over 100,000 meals last year and growing. I have a non-profit, From Our Village, that matches people with service and consider these roles an extension of that organization. I also consult on disaster in Washington state & Louisiana with Response Systems International & coach a Nationals level volleyball team that incorporates service into their season. My family provides multiple community meals throughout the year and travels to Native American Reservations and other needy communities to partner with those in need. Being sick will not change this.

When and why did you decide to become involved in the service to the poor?

When I was a child, my mother did not want me. She told me as much and was often verbally and physically rough. Many nights, I would lie in the dark, small & afraid, with only God to protect me. I think this instilled a desire to care for others so they would never feel small and alone in the dark. I cannot remember a time when I would not stand up for the underdog.

Shelly assisting a baby in the mountains of Haiti, 2006

Shelly assisting a baby in the mountains of Haiti, 2006

I can share that even after developing lung disease and being forced to leave the fire service, I still recognized that I have a good family and friends, a roof over my head, food in my pantry, a secure community and it drove home that I can only be grateful in my life and continue to serve others that are not as fortunate.

My husband, Jim and I deliver 600-800 lbs. of food to the homeless each week. We also prepare and provide meals 6-8 times a year to children in the inner city on weekends. We conduct an annual winter coat drive and give 1000+ students a year warm coats, hats and mittens. At Christmas, we recruit friends to put together 100 gift bags for inner city kids and at Thanksgiving, we do the same to provide holiday meals to over 50 families. Jim is the Vice President of Manufacturing at Imperial Printing & has incorporated service into his companies philosophy, not only providing free & low cost printing to non-profits, but packing holiday meals, providing warehouse space to the coat/food drives, and loaning his company’s truck for deliveries.

How did God prepare you to serve the poor while you served as a firefighter?

As a firefighter, we were never invited to someone’s home when things were good. It was always the worst moment. This drove home the fact that regardless of income, race, class, etc., at the end of the

After the Haiti earthquake, 2010

After the Haiti earthquake, 2010

day we are all God´s creatures with basic needs for comfort, warmth, care, and security. Serving as a firefighter gave me the ability to recognize priorities (life, others, not money or possessions, etc.) and trained a calmness into me that comforts others and make them feel safe while also allowing me to function in times of great stress without panic. My medical and emergency skills are also useful in meeting the needs of those living in poverty.

Finally, what would you tell those who are considering to serve the poor but have not taken action yet?

Just do it! As my youngest daughter told a room of 400 people, you do not need any special skills to care for others, just a heart for people. There is no excuse to wait. You can listen, you can hold a hand, you can hand someone a sandwich or bottle of clean water. There is nothing standing between you and serving.











A Challenging Call to End Poverty!

Tim Neeves, Director of Prospect Arts and Director of the Film 58 challenges us to become God´s instruments, live Isaiah 58 and be a hand of healing to a hurting world!                                         Enjoy this interview and Live58!



From a Hopeless Boy to a Visionary Young Man

“We don’t need to excel for the sake of excellence. I think we need to excel for the sake of God’s name.”


Daniel Njenga Maina

Daniel Njenga Maina, a former Compassion sponsored child. Njenga, as he prefers to be called, is 29 years old. He was born in Kenya, about half an hour away from Nairobi.

Njenga is currently studying Masters of Arts Intercultural and Urban Studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He will graduate in May, 2014.

Njenga at Moody Bible Institute

Njenga at Moody Bible Institute

Njenga travels twice a month across churches in the US speaking on behalf of Compassion International.

Njenga is also a church planting intern in a local church in Chicago and he works part time at Moody Distance Learning where he coordinates Graduate modular classes.

When Njenga goes back to Kenya, he is planning to start a church, and concurrently train pastors and lay leaders in theology. He is also working towards helping a local school in Kenya in order to build a library, and hopefully some other schools will receive the same benefit in the future.


Tell us about your background and what poverty was like for you when you were a child?

For me poverty begins with my mom. My mom was 14 years old when she gave birth to me, so, a very young woman. She didn’t have any education. She was sent out of her home by my grandmother. And then, when I was 9 years old, my mom passed away. That was very hard! And you know, my dad was not there either! Actually, I never knew who my father was.

My mom had tuberculosis and she couldn’t access medical care. That was a very hard season for me. By the age of 7 I hadn’t started going to school and we were living in a 10 by 10-feet house, a very small house. I took care of my sister who was three years younger than me. I mean, growing up was really hard in those conditions!

There were not people who were wealthy where I was. There were so many drunkards. Drugs were being sold like a hundred feet away from my house. So, there was temptation to get into drugs growing up as a young man. And yeah… there was a very famous gang. And so many young people resolved to get into that gang as a way of escaping poverty. Happily, I never joined that gang or never got involved with drugs.

I never went to church either. My grandmother did as she was Catholic. But I never went to church because my mom did not go to church at that point.

Before my mom actually passed we moved into my stepdad’s house –my sister’s dad. He did what I would call ´mechanical work´ –gas welding. So, he worked somewhere in the field…places where cars were repaired. And he would just sit there and wait for work to come. So, that was very hard. You’d never know whether he would make money. There were times when we were at home, waiting for him to bring food because he didn’t leave us any money. And he would come back after walking about 25 kilometers… far, far away. And he’d come and say, “I don’t have any money for you today.” Then, we’d just drink water and spend the night in hope that the next day God is going to provide something for us.

What was the concept that you guys had about God at that moment of life? Was there God for you?

I can’t remember that exactly…at that age of 7. I can’t remember a concept of God. But at the age of 9 because I already joined the Compassion program, I started to learn about God and I remember that was very strange for me. I remember being asked to close our eyes and pray, and it didn’t make sense. (He laughs!)

You didn’t see anybody, you didn’t feel anything…

Yeah! I couldn’t feel anything. I mean I just covered my eyes but I was half open trying to see what’s going on.


How was the experience of becoming a Compassion sponsored child? How did your life start to change?

Oh, I think the biggest thing that happened to me was to become a part of a church. You know being introduced to the Gospel at such an early age is just awesome! As for me, when I look back, I see that as one of the greatest investments that was made in my life. Just the concept that you learn –God loves us! You know, for me that was a strange idea that somebody loved me because I think what happens when you are in poverty, the concept of love is a kind of hazy or it doesn’t make sense. And knowing that God is there for me, it just gave me hope! But also, knowing that someone is meeting your basic needs like food or health care when you go to the program; it truly gave me hope! I was also taught how to brush my teeth at the Compassion program. I received my first toothbrush and my first toothpaste. I have told people I almost ate the toothpaste because it was so sweet! It tasted so good! (He laughs!) And then I got, you know, a blanket and I had my own mattress… a comfortable mattress to sleep on and I would share it with my sister.

Njenga visiting Compassion sponsored children in Kenya

Njenga visiting Compassion sponsored children in Kenya

Not only that, Compassion also paid for my tuition to start going to school and that opened opportunities for me to even start dreaming of who I will become.

You know, I got text books, I got exercise books, and they paid for my uniform. My self-esteem was being built up above all. I even started to see love in myself. And all of this was possible because of my sponsors!


How did you learn this concept of God’s love since you actually didn’t experience a real, personal love here on earth?

Yes, it was hard growing up. My dad (stepfather) was very abusive in the sense that he would beat me a lot. I struggled so much although I knew that God loves me. When I was a teenager I stopped going to church. I would keep attending the Compassion program on Saturdays but I wouldn’t go to church on Sundays because I was struggling with that idea.

I tried to run away from that as much as I could, but the more I ran away the more empty I became. And finally, my hope was only in the Christian faith. After two years, I went back to church and I rededicated my life to Christ. That changed things amazingly! One of those, I wanted to forgive my dad (stepfather) because I realized that my heart was so heavy and I couldn’t have peace with God.

From that moment, I started to appreciate my dad (stepfather) more, you know, I started to see his efforts to raise us. I started to see all the struggles he went through without a wife. So, that made me appreciate him and respect him!

Although, my dad (stepfather) never provided as much as I would have wanted him to, that never made me see God as a distant god. As for me, being part of the Compassion program was enough reason to know and understand that God is good. My needs were met. There was somebody far, far away that was concerned about me and that meant that there’s a God who truly loved me. Oh Yeah!


How did you move from hopelessness to a life full of hope and dreams?

You know, I’ve never thought about who I want to become. One day, when I was a child, I mentioned that I want to be a mechanic because my dad was a mechanic.

Or I would say I want to be a carpenter because I would have only seen “carpenters.”

And then I started reading books and I learned that there are people who are called doctors, there are people who are lawyers, there are engineers. So, I wanted to become an engineer at certain point. Later, I changed my mind and I wanted to become a lawyer. You know, because I wanted to fight for the rights of people. And finally, I ended up becoming a teacher, because of the impact that teachers had in my life. So, I stopped to dream about my own self and I started thinking of how ‘what I want to become can help other people.’

Then, I did not only become a teacher but God also called me to become a pastor. And I’d never thought about going to seminary. Actually, I didn’t have any single coin to pay for my tuition. I had talked with people and I was hoping to do some fundraising. But Compassion, at that very moment, opened up the Moody opportunity and I applied for this scholarship to come to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I waited for about 5 to 6 months… it was very competitive! Students across the 26 countries where Compassion works were waiting for this great opportunity.
I wanted to come to Moody and thank God I did! It’s been a great experience being here!


So, from this special journey, what are your dreams and plans? And how God is leading you towards them?

Good question! My dream when I came to Moody was to go back to Kenya and do church planting, and at the same time help pastors who’ve never had the privilege to go to seminary like I have. I still want to do that, go back to Nairobi and start a church there. Also, I want to start a network that would mobilize resources in Kenya, and if possible outside Kenya to see the church there being equipped to continue to do the Great Commission. So it’s a big dream and there are times I feel like “Maybe I can’t do this.”
But the more I start to look back at what God has done I feel like “God can do this.”

I’m also passionate for education. The opportunity to go to school has just given me the privilege to meet so many people and even to be here in the US. So, I have a friend who has given me a piece of land to build a resource center for the community. I want to come up with a model for Kenya where we can have a resource center in one place but it will also be replicated across the country. This resource center is a place where children can come and read a book or do their homework. People who’ve graduated from high school, they can come and help those students. It will be an opportunity to teach other young people how to give back to the country and to their communities what they have already received.

I also hope that the resource center would be a place where pastors can come and prepare their own sermons and study more.
I think seminars can be conducted as well.

What is your main motivation to accomplish these ambitious goals?

I think everybody needs to grow in excellence, you know to keep working on their skills. So, I feel that I want to do those things. But, I also need somebody else to keep pouring in me. I think that’s a very good concept… people pouring in you, you pouring in them, you pouring in others and they pouring in other people. Then, you will be able to see transformation!

Because I would say we don’t need to excel for the sake of excellence. I think we need to excel for the sake of God’s name. I mean, if God created everything so beautifully, I think as Christians we need to exemplify that. God has created us different. He has given us so many gifts. So, it is the matter of using your gifts to serve other people. Because excellence is not just about us, it’s about other people. And people would be able to notice our excellence. Then, they will desire it and they will even ask…why do you do this? So, our excellence should make people ask questions about our faith.