Anita Charles has a powerful story to tell about how God used a couple in Oregon to help rescue her from childhood poverty in India, through Compassion International, to become a Jesus-follower ministering around the world. Now, after nearly 50 years of life-changing ministry to millions of children, the government of India is forcing Compassion out of the country.
My journey with Compassion started when I was 9 years old. My parents had a rough marriage and had separated. My mother was left to raise me and my brother as a single parent in Chennai, a large city of 8 million people. It so happened that Compassion International had a project in the school I was going to. My 4th grade teacher knew how much my mother was struggling to raise 2 children on her own, struggling to pay the rent, struggling to pay school tuition, struggling to put food on the table and to make ends meet. So she recommended me for sponsorship with Compassion.
In India, as in many other countries, schools are not free and there is no system of good public school education. The house that we grew up in was about the size of a two car garage. There was one room that was our bedroom, living room and dining room. There were no taps in the house except for one hand pump. We sat on the floor to have our meals. We washed dishes, clothes and bathed in the same small space in the bathroom.
My mother said this so much it was drilled it into me, “You don’t have a father, we don’t have money, so if you don’t finish school you will have nothing!” So we knew that education was important if we wanted to survive.
How did being sponsored change my life? Being sponsored impacted my life in 2 distinct ways.
First, sponsorship provided an education that we could not afford on our own. I was sponsored from 4th grade through 12th grade by a couple named Glen and Linda who live in Portland, Oregon. During that time, my school tuition was paid for as well as my text books and school uniforms. They also gave me birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. Let me add that God gave me the awesome privilege to meet them when I came to live in the United States. Because I was sponsored I received good education that prepared me for the opportunities that lay ahead.
Secondly, God gave me Jesus who is the Lord of my life – the Hope of all Hopes! The school that I went to, because of my sponsorship, was a Christian school that nurtured my faith. We started every day with songs, prayer and reading Scripture. This school taught me to connect with God as my Father and this school was also the place that I first asked God to be the Lord of my life.
Additionally, being sponsored allowed me to see how God had seen my mother’s difficulty and answered her prayers.
My journey with Compassion has come full circle as my family now sponsors four children through Compassion, two of whom are from India. While it is a pleasure to receive letters from them, see their photographs and to write back to them, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a meaningful relationship with the two children in India for about 10 years. I have visited them twice in India. My heart is saddened to think that their chances to stay in school and to receive a good education has been jeopardized by the changes made by Indian government. The government has moved to restrict charitable organizations, hindering them from redeeming vulnerable children from the cycle of poverty.
Compassion International has been working in India for 48 years and is now forced to close the doors of opportunity to about 145,000 young, vulnerable children. While we worship a sovereign God cares very much for those 145,000 children. To learn more about the situation please visit https://www.compassion.com/about/where/india.htm
For Further Reading:
Suhasini Haidar and Vijaita Singh, “Compassion International to shut down India operations,” The Hindu (February 3, 2017).
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “Compassion: Why We’re Leaving India, But Still Have Hope: ‘Frustrated’ CEO explains how shutdown of 589 centers serving 145,000 children will affect staff, sponsors, and churches,” Christianity Today (March 1, 2017).
Anita recorded this testimony about 5 years ago: