Actually his name is Edino–but for us gringos, Eddie is an acceptable pronunciation. He is five years old and lives on the island of Pampanal. When I first heard about Pampanal, God wrecked my heart. Several thousand people, descended from slaves, now living in slavery to abject poverty. Houses built on stilts because their island floods several times every month. AND, no church! No hope that Jesus brings. Until Stadia and Compassion enter the story.
I knew that I was supposed to allow God to make a difference through me . . . to plant a church and care for the children of Pampanal Island. And so, my wife, Julie, and I raised money by climbing Mount Whitney for my 50th birthday. By God’s grace, enough funds were raised to accomplish our goal. This past Saturday, the new structure was complete and the church opened! This past December, RiverTree Church sponsored every registered child on the island so that they could be cared for by Compassion. A ministry to care for young mothers with their newborn babies was also funded.
Eddie, his mom and the Compassion Project Director traveled eight hours by bus to meet me in Quito, Ecuador. They traveled through the night arriving at five in the morning. They traveled from sea level to the nearly 10,000 feet of elevation of the mountain city of Quito. Eddie was queasy from the altitude.
When I first saw Eddie, my heart broke. He is the same age as my son Elijah. The difference in their lives? Eddie was born into poverty and Elijah was born in the United States. Eddie is just now hearing about Jesus, and Elijah has been told of Jesus’ love for him from the moment he entered our home.
Stadia plants new churches where no church currently exists. This enables Compassion International to immediately administer their programs through that new church. In 2013 alone, 25 new churches will be planted throughout South America as a result of this partnership. More than 6,000 children will be released from poverty in Jesus’ name.
Eddie’s Compassion Project Director excitedly told me about the new church opening on her island. She sadly told me that Eddie was one of only three children that had been sponsored. With joy, I explained that all of the children now had sponsors! (It takes 60 days for the registrations to be completed.)
I choked down a chicken sandwich as I watched Eddie eat his first “Happy Meal” at McDonalds. I watched as Eddie opened a backpack full of gifts my family had sent to him. His response to the gifts? “I have so much to share with the other children of my island!”
Meeting Eddie reminds me that every single one of us can make meals for children living in poverty a little “happier.” But more importantly, that one day we will all sit together with Jesus and share the most important “Happy Meal” of all–life together in God’s eternal Kingdom.
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