Hope. The over-arching emotion I experienced while in Ecuador with Compassion International was hope. I didn’t know what to expect — I’ve never been much of a globe trekker, but my best guess was that I would see a lot of poverty. There was overwhelming poverty, but I would have never guessed that in the midst of such poverty there was hope.

There was no sales pitch. No arm twisting. No marketing trickery. The evidence was in the eyes and smiles of the children, parents, and laypeople of the churches we visited: Compassion International works. Their mission of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name is being fulfilled and I was privileged enough to witness it.

I recently traveled to Ecuador with a dozen people comprised of a mix of Compassion employees and website developers who help promote Compassion through our publications. We had a first-hand look at how:

  • Churches implement the Compassion International Child Development Sponsorship Program;
  • Compassion’s Child Survivor Program (a relatively new program) works with moms and their babies to help them not only survive, but thrive;
  • Compassion’s Country-wide office orchestrates over 300+ projects that help 55,000+ children in Ecuador as well as implements Complementary Interventions;
  • Sponsored children are becoming leaders through the Leadership Development Program.

In the coming days I want to share a few of the most memorable stories from my trip starting today with the first child I met in Ecuador.

We arrived on a Saturday evening. As we left the Quito airport, a young, all-alone girl (around 13 years of age) was waiting outside our bus begging for money. Shuffling past her I got on the bus and thought to myself, “I’m not ready for this.” I wasn’t ready to experience the poverty, the desolation, and the sense of despair in which this little girl lived daily. I fully realize that I live in a self-constructed bubble of wealth and prosperity, and seeing this little girl reminded me that my bubble was about to burst.

Jim Elliott, a well-known missionary was tragically killed while living and working in the jungles of Ecuador. He is the author of these two quotes:

Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

She was the fork in my path.
This poverty-stricken girl was no longer in some far-away country; she was standing in front of me, between where I was and where I was going. She was the fork in my path. I had to turn one way or another upon seeing Christ in her. Sadly, I had already made my choice when I shuffled past that little girl. Thankfully, God allows U-turns.

[Jesus said,] "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?'And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" (Matthew 25:37-40 NLT)

While that moment was difficult for me, it provided incredible perspective for the rest of our trip. As it turns out, she’s the only beggar I saw while on the trip. The children we met—many of them just like her—are being lifted out of poverty through Compassion International. Make no mistake about it, with 70% of the country living in poverty (and 40% in extreme poverty) there are plenty of beggars. But the reason I found so much hope over the next few days is that Compassion International is actively involved in the lives of 50,000+ Ecuadorian children thanks to people all over the world who have discovered that giving what they can’t keep is helping thousands of children gain what they can’t lose.

I hope over the next few days that my stories and experiences can help you see just a glimpse of the incredible impact that Compassion International is having in Ecuador and throughout the world.

Here are the entire series of articles from Ben's trip to Ecuador:

  • A Fork in My Path
  • It's a Small World After All
  • "We Exist"
  • Compassionate People
  • From Surviving to Thriving