Sometimes parents come up to me and say, “We never did that compassion stuff with our kids. We missed out. I guess it’s too late. Maybe I can try something when I have grandkids.”
What? No! It’s never too late!
The Powell Family started opening their hearts to make room for compassion a few years ago, when their oldest kids were teenagers. They dipped their toe in by sponsoring a child in Kenya. But now they are swimming all over the deep end!
Introducing the Powell Family!
I am Amy. I am married to my highschool sweetheart, Corey. We have been following the Lord to the best of our ability for our 23 years of marriage. For the first 20 of those, our lives consisted mostly of taking care of our jobs and kids. Corey has owned his own business, and I have homeschooled the kids part-time for much of that. We have always attended church and Bible studies regularly and have been involved in small groups of Christian community, but our service usually involved serving the served and loving the loved. We would do seasonal “compassionate” things such as school supply drives and Christmas gift collections, but serving the marginalized, poor, orphaned, etc. was not a central part of our lives until about 2-3 years ago.
Our kids are Allie (18), Jackson (15), and Cooper (10). In addition to just understanding God’s heart for the poor and orphaned and His call to us to serve them personally, we really wanted service and living out the gospel to be a normal, regular part of our kids’ lives.
How is your family showing compassion this year?
Our family serves teen parents and their children through an organization called YoungLives (part of the larger organization of YoungLife). Amy is a mentor to a few teen moms. As a family, we serve at the bi-monthly YoungLives meetings, care for teen moms’ practical needs, include them when we go to church, and host them in our home. This is our “constant” place of ministry.
We also have a deep calling and place in our hearts for the country of Kenya and several ministries there. Primarily, we serve the orphanage called Naomi’s Village and the missionaries that work there. We spread word about their needs, help with fundraisers (such as running a water station or at check-in at their annual 5K), sponsor 4 children who we have personal relationships with, and are involved with missionary care.
Beyond that, we serve a local church in Kenya called Rift Valley Fellowship that helps rescue kids from the sex-industry there by taking collections of things to help them and telling people about their ministry. We also serve a church/school in the slums of Nairobi called Wells of Joy by helping with fundraising, being involved with a support-team of Americans, and exposing our friends to our experiences in helping with this ministry.
In an effort to support our friends on the ground in Kenya and also serve our friends in America, we feel called to lead others on short-term trips to Kenya. This year, Amy and our kids will lead another family to Kenya in October. We will transport many things for the ministries and missionaries that we serve. (Shipping to Kenya isn’t an option, so the people living there depend on short-tem mission teams for many supplies.) We will work along side those on the ground to serve at the orphanage by helping to care for children and help the staff with jobs that they do on a regular basis to keep the place running well. We will serve the church there and also the school in the slums in whatever way they can use us during our 10 days on the ground.
How did your family start this journey toward compassion?
Our passion for Kenya began in 2012 when we sponsored a child at Naomi’s Village named Mary. By early 2013 Amy & Allie followed the Lord’s calling to Mary’s orphanage (Naomi’s Village) to serve there and in the surrounding area. (This was our first-ever mission trip.) Throughout the process of preparing for that trip and in since that trip, Amy saw more clearly than ever that the Lord has called Believers to love the marginalized, particularly orphans and the poor & needy, as a regular part of their lives.
In an effort to live out that conviction, she looked for orphans in America. As a family, they didn’t feel called to foster/adopt, but in that search for a way to serve orphans/the poor she found an organization called YoungLives. Essentially, many of the teenage girls in YoungLives in our particular community are orphan-like themselves without much parental support, and they are raising babies in a similar situation as their own. Many of them live in poverty that we didn’t even know existed in our little corner of suburbia. Our family’s eyes were opened to the conditions that many of these girls live in on a daily basis – in need of basics like food, electricity, and warmth in the winter & cool air in the summer. We desired to show Jesus to them through loving them consistently and without condition.
Additionally, in 2014 our entire family went back to Kenya to serve the ministries and missionaries that Amy had begun a relationship with the year before. Many good things came of that trip, and one of the main ones was a clear desire to serve and support the missionaries there. Since that time, Amy has devoted herself to missionary care of 5 families serving Naomi’s Village. Our family participates in that by praying for the missionaries as well as shopping for them, sending them messages, etc.
How did you choose your plan of action?
Actually, we were not real intentional with choosing what we would do for “compassion” in our family. The things that we now spend our time doing are things that the Lord has drawn us to and connected our hearts with. We feel strongly that one of the most important components of short-term missions and ministry in general is relationship building and maintaining. Through having relationships with people in Kenya and also the teen moms and their families in America, our “choice” for where/ who to serve is made for us.
Why are you doing all this?
We serve others because Jesus calls us to that, as followers of Him. James 1:27 says that pure and undefiled religion is shown by caring for orphans and widows in their affliction. (And we finally believe that He meant it. ) We want to show others Christ’s love by loving them. Jesus was really clear in Luke 10 that as Christians we have 2 main things to keep at the forefront of what we do: Love God and love people. Our family doesn’t do this perfectly – not even close – but we try. And we do it as a response to the great Love that we have been shown by the Lord and with a hope that He will draw others to Himself because they have seen Him in us. Simply put, we love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
What is the hardest part?
One thing that is the hardest for us is asking for help. Everything we do, whether in the US or in Kenya, is much bigger than ourselves and our budget (time and/ or money). We know, in our heads that the Lord uses the body of Christ to work together, but it is hard to live this out. Perhaps we are called to have relationships that others cannot have, but they can provide some of the essentials that we need to minister to our friends in need. Or perhaps we are called to go to Africa to serve while others are called to encourage us, pray for us, and help fund our trips. It makes sense that this is how the Lord would knit His body of Believers together, but it is awfully hard to ask for others to join into what we are doing. However, we have had many, many situations where others have actually thanked us for giving them an opportunity to be involved in either YoungLives or the work we do in Kenya.
Another hard thing is the way that relationships changed because WE have changed. We live in the same house, go to the same schools, and have many of the same social engagements. We look the same. But the Lord has wrecked our hearts. Our priorities have changed. Our “needs” have changed. The way we look at the world has changed. The way we want to spend our time has changed. So, maintaining relationships that have not evolved along with us is very hard and lonely sometimes. However, we have found amazing camaraderie in those that are doing life in a way similar to the way that we do, those serving in the ministries that we serve in. Those relationships have been some of the greatest blessings that we have ever experienced.
By far, the hardest thing for us is having the scales removed from our eyes and having our hearts broken for our friends and for the world. Personally knowing those that are in need, those that are being neglected and abused, those that are living in horrible conditions or with horrible diseases… and understanding that it isn’t our job to save them or fix them, but it IS our job to love them and show them Jesus… just living in the depths of the realities of the brokenness of the world… that is the hardest part. The Lord gives us Grace to do so, though. And really, there is not another way that any of us would choose to live.
Despite these hard things, we still choose this life of service and ministry and know that it is for our best and for the Lord’s glory. We are getting to experience the reality that when we are WEAK, He is STRONG (2 Corinthians 12:10) in a way that we never had before. And if you look back at the first part of that verse, here is what is says: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” We do it for the sake of Christ. And through it, we get to experience a dependence on the Lord and get a more clear picture of the hope and contentment that can only be found in Him than we ever did before
Do you have any advice for other families?
Yes! DO SOMETHING! Consistently, regularly. Involve broken people in your life. (PS – We are all broken.) Keep the realities of the world and the need for Jesus in the forefront of your familiy’s life. Don’t guard your kids from the hurt and pain that is the reality for so many.
When we first went to Africa I thought, “How will I keep the topic of prostitution and HIV and horrific child abuse from my kids?!” And while there is definitely a way to speak of these things appropriately to a child, I decided to speak of them with my kids. I believe that they should understand, for example, that the reason that this child in Africa is neglected might be because it’s mother is working at night doing a job that is not what God would like her to do. She is spending time with men in an inappropriate way to earn money so she can feed her children. Otherwise, they might starve. And the reason that she feels she has to do that is because her husband died, and now his family has shunned her. It’s not because she is bad. It is because she is desperate. So, as a family, let’s go help the people that are helping her. Let’s show her and her kids that they are not outcasts that are unworthy of friendship and love. THIS is how we show compassion. This is how we share Christ.
In America, instead of buying a new toy at WalMart and donating it to a big organization, let’s make friends with the poor. Let’s find out when they are cold and give them blankets. Let’s love their kids enough to know the things that they like or need and give them gifts that will match that. Instead of being nervous about our kids being face to face with teenage pregnancy, we talk about choices and consequences. We learn how to not judge them – they are not random statistics anymore; they are now our friends. We learn about them. Sometimes we find out that they have stories that involve rape, finding a boyfriend for much-needed shelter, that maybe they have been the child of a teen mom who was a child of a teen mom, who was the child of a teen mom… and so on. That maybe they have no idea that there is a different way to live. When we understand people, we can love them so much easier. So much better. The measure for morality doesn’t change, but the capacity for compassion increases by astronomical amounts.
How can we join you in your Family Compassion Focus?
- Serving in Kenya is one of the deepest desires of our hearts. It seems we are almost always planning a trip there or hoping to. However, it is very expensive to travel to Africa. So, pray for the Lord’s provision and for the work that He allows us to join in there.
- Specifically, pray for safety, health, and comfort for our family during the trip that we are about to take in October, and that as we pour ourselves out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, that the light of Jesus will rise in the darkness through us. (Isaiah 58:10)
For the ministries that we serve:
- YoungLives (as well as YoungLife) is worldwide organization. I have been exceedingly impressed with the way they do ministry, their goals, and their methods. We are in constant need of finances to do ministry with and people to serve.
- The ministries that we serve in Kenya are always in need of prayer, finances, and short-term missionaries to come and serve along side of them. They are: Naomi’s Village, Rift Valley Fellowship, and Wells of Joy.
The Powells journey in compassion started small. They sponsored a child, then went on a mission trip.
Within 3 years they surrendered their hearts, time, energy, and relationships to generously love and serve people through 4 different organizations.
What might surrender look like for your family?
How could you start small today?
For more information or to donate to the projects the Powells are involved in, you can contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you know a World Changer? We’d love to learn from them! Send me a message in the comments below, or at email@example.com.
To learn how the Family Compassion Focus got started, read Our Story.
To get ideas for how to start your own Family Compassion Focus, read Getting Started. (Remember, it’s never too late and there are a thousand ways to do it.)
To learn from other families practicing compassion, type in World Changer in the Search box.
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2015.