Compassion Experience brings global poverty to Jacksonville

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By Courtney Clark
mail@floridanewsline.com

From June 1 – 4, the Church of Eleven22 hosted its annual Compassion Mobile Experience at its Mandarin campus. Compassion International, a global organization, partners with churches around the country to bring its eight Compassion Experience trucks to campuses nationwide.

The purpose? According to the website, to help churches “experience global poverty without leaving your parking lot.”

Compassion International’s goal is to help foster child development through sponsorship on multiple fronts: spiritually, physically, socially and economically. Assistance varies from prenatal care all the way to leadership development for young adults. Put simply, Compassion is committed to long-term care for children and families in need.

By partnering with “churches and denominations in Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America,” Compassion International has helped more than one million children go from awful, poverty-stricken conditions to receiving food and water, an education and love.

A significant portion of this care begins with the Compassion Experience. Imagining the conditions in which third-world children live can be difficult for us; that’s where the free and family-friendly mobile experience helps. Each mobile offers an immersive, walk-through experience of the lives of two children who have been sponsored through the program. This year at Eleven22, people met Ruben from Bolivia and Julian from Uganda.

Guests are handed headphones and an iPod upon entering. The children tell their stories, complete with sound effects that match the scenes presented. There are multiple rooms for each child that replicate places they have lived, worked and learned.

Ruben tells of his childhood home where he was surrounded by drugs, gangs and an abusive father. When his family moved, they entered an even more dangerous area. At six years old, he was working to provide for his family, where they would have one meal a day if they were lucky.

His childhood worsened until he was introduced to Compassion International. When he learned he was sponsored by a family, he says he “couldn’t stop laughing.” Although his life was still a struggle, thanks to his sponsor he was able to study architecture, graduate high school and work at the airport. His goal is to build homes for those who have lost theirs or who need a better place to live.

Julian, the second story in the Mandarin mobile, has arguably faced even worse conditions than Ruben. In Uganda, she says, “life has no value, especially if you are a woman, a child or from the wrong tribe.” She was all three. Her father passed away, leaving just her mother to care for five children. They habitually propped a chair against the door to keep drunken men from breaking into their home.

Unlike other mothers in the area, Julian’s refused to sell her daughters into marriage. The area is fraught with child marriage, with some children being sold as young as age 10. Julian’s situation began to improve once she was brought into the Compassion program.

She was sent away to boarding school to help keep her safe from disease and the ever-present threat of marriage. With the help of her sponsor, she was able to pay school dues, graduate from high school and university and even get accepted into the Master’s program at Baylor University in the United States. Her goal is to pay it forward by giving back and helping her siblings pay for college.

Once guests finish making their way through the replica rooms and hearing the stories, they are offered the opportunity to sponsor children like Ruben and Julian — where they can completely turn a child’s life around.

Visit www.CompassionExperience.com for more information on how to get involved or to find another event nearby.

Photos by Courtney Clark

Ruben room 2: Shining shoes for work