So, I’ve written a book. And it’s quite a story too. A story of generosity and sacrifice; one man giving of himself to help children and families in poverty. I have variously been called a 'saint' and an 'angel,' and at times it was tempting to believe it.
It would have been quite easy to turn this story into a warm-fuzzy, feel-good humanitarian triumph. I could have put myself up as a poster-boy for human compassion and good deeds. I'm sure that taking that angle would have resulted in more readers, more exposure and promotion, more pats on the back and kind words. Everyone loves a good 'faith-in-humanity-restored' tale.
But I couldn’t do that. Not when I know the truth. The truth that the past eight years I’ve spent sponsoring, advocating and travelling to 12 countries with Compassion International is not about me at all. It’s all about God. The only reason I’ve devoted my life to sponsoring, advocating for and visiting these children and families is because God loves me and I want to share God’s love with them, pure and simple. No other reason makes sense to me.
I haven't always had this perspective, I'm ashamed to admit. Pride, self-righteousness and jealousy have been my companions at times along the way. I have watched on enviously as Compassion bloggers and celebrities get taken on trips and promoted and praised, while I fork out thousands of dollars to visit my sponsored kids around the world in obscurity. Deep down I longed to be recognized and noticed. "I'm doing so much more than they are..." would be my indignant, bitter attitude. We Christians have a little cliché that we like to use, that we're doing it for the "Audience of One." This certainly wasn't always the case for me.
Thankfully God has mended my attitude and perspective, and I've been able to genuinely surrender the book (and whatever opportunities arise) to Him.
So, why did I invest a four-figure amount of money in this book, even when I was living off my savings in the Philippines? What do I have to gain? I have a message to share with people which I believe is urgent and important, and I will do whatever I can to get it out there. That’s all.
I'm just an Average Joe. I’m not a paid employee or official spokesperson for Compassion. All views and opinions in the book are my own, but they are based on what I have seen, witnessed and experienced in eight years of sponsoring and visiting the developing world. I'm not doing it for any sort of bonuses or brownie points. My involvement with Compassion through sponsoring and travelling has cost me a whole lot more than I have gained, materially speaking.
This is the bottom line for me:
I want people to know that God is real and He is at work in this world through the impact the Church and Compassion are having on millions of children in 26 countries around the world.
I want people to know that they can make a tangible, eternal difference in other people’s lives by partnering with Compassion in sponsorship. I can comfortably hold myself up as an example of that truth, since through my life of generosity and sacrifice I am shining the light of Jesus’ love.
Sponsorship is not just a 'nice thing' we do, and it should never be so limited. I want people to understand that when a child is supported by Compassion and the church, and loved and encouraged by a sponsor, it results in genuine life change and transformation. Sponsored kids are growing up to become doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, pastors, teachers and even senators and government leaders! Changing their communities and countries, all because someone showed them the love of Jesus. It is real, and I want to show that through countless examples in this book, so other people will get involved.
I have no doubt that the blatant and pervasive “God-emphasis” that drenches every part of this story will turn some potential readers off. That’s disappointing, but it’s their loss.
I cannot compromise and claim any glory or recognition that rightfully belongs to God.
I cannot deny that which has revealed itself to be true to me (thanks to Whispering Danny for that little gem).
I cannot deny that in all my travels going deep into the brokenness, poverty, darkness and danger of the developing world, the only evidence of joy, peace and hope for the future I witnessed was within the walls of the churches where Compassion was showing children the love of Jesus. It was the only place they were being taught that they had a purpose and their lives have value. I could not pretend that had anything to do with me, even if I’d wanted to.
I still haven't pinpointed a specific target audience for the book. Obviously it's mainly aimed at Christians, but I hope that people who do not share my worldview will still pick up this book and have a read.
Maybe I’ll be an example of a Christian that they’ve never seen before and as a result they will do some seeking.
Maybe through these stories they’ll come face-to-face with a God they’ve never met before, or even meet Him for the first time.
Maybe they’ll somehow manage to ignore the God stuff altogether but be inspired to help others and live generous lives.
I believe that the stories in this book will touch hearts and minds. As far as ‘when’ and ‘how,’ I know it is out of my hands, but I rest in the fact it is in the hands of One much greater than I am, and I know He will use it. So, while I don’t have a slick, fancy PR machine over several social media platforms giving me maximum exposure, access to speaking engagements and media interviews etc., I know that by dedicating it to God, the One who it’s all about in the first place, the right people will see it, enjoy it and share it. There’s a definite peace that comes with that knowledge.
Despite experiencing a fair number of hiccups that come with being a 'nobody' working with a small independent publisher, I have enjoyed the writing process, as well as having the freedom to write what I want. I even managed to slip a couple of Homer Simpson quotes in there! I am thankful for the God-given ability to 'spin a story' using the written word and I guess the ultimate rush for a writer is when they hear from their readers "I felt like I was there!" I hope you feel that after reading 'Go Into All The World.'
I must warn you that in some ways, this book is not an easy read. The stories that I tell are all real. They are not fabricated or embellished in any way. They are often raw and confronting. They reveal the depth of brokenness, darkness and mess in this world. On the flipside, the genuine hope, change and transformation that God brings through the work of Compassion and that I've witnessed personally is just as real, and it is magnificent. I believe you will be changed in some way after reading this book, and I hope you are moved to positive action.
In the end, this eight-year journey of sponsorship, impacting lives and travels into the developing world is just one small chapter in God’s eternal epic tale, and it’s a privilege for me to be the 'supporting actor' He has chosen to headline this particular scene.