Compassion Ripples

Compassion Ripples

And no one went in need of anything. Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles. Then they would give the money to anyone who needed it. Acts 4:34-35

And no one went in need of anything.  Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles.  Then they would give the money to anyone who needed it.  Acts 4:34-35

An elderly widow is cutting coupons and saving every extra penny for a special offering to be held at church.  With her husband and her children gone, she has to make every cent count.  She is not a “sweet little old church lady,” but one of those crotchety complainers who doesn’t want any changes to come to her congregation or her community; and yet, she is saving the pennies from each coupon she uses at the store for the offering she will give to help build a Blessing Cabin in Chile on the other side of the world.

He travelled overseas with a church group when he was fifteen years old.  He sang, worked, and made friends with teenagers who spoke a different language but worshipped the same God.  When he heard the news, he knew he had to do something to help.  So, he designed and made t-shirts imprinted with a drawing of a small house.  Now he is selling the t-shirts to raise money to help build Blessing Cabins for the people he learned to love in Chile, that faraway country on the other side of the world.

Eighty men and a few women gather at dusk after a long workday.  They are building Blessing Cabins to shelter to as many brothers and sisters as they can before the winter rains begin.  They work until late, night after night, week after week, volunteering after hours at their regular jobs, continuing all day on Saturdays, and stopping only for church services on Sunday afternoons.  Though small, the Blessing Cabins, now taking take form in the skilled hands of these volunteer carpenters and master builders, are not only dry and warm, but pretty and worthy of the families who will inhabit them. The resources for the building materials have come from offerings given in churches on the other side of the world.

Richard has been watching closely over the small congregation in his care for several weeks, scrambling to scrounge up food, water, clothing, and tents.  After the first devastating dawn, the full moon filled him with hope even when the sun disappeared each day and still there was no electricity or running water. But then, his concern grew as the moon began to wane and the days shortened signalling the rapid passing of the summer and the arrival of the first winter rains.  The first three Blessing Cabins arrived just in time, small but sturdy defences against the bitter winds, and put together by the efforts of sisters and brothers nearby and on the other side of the world.

Valentina went to bed Friday night thinking about having fun on the last weekend before the start her senior year of high school.  She awoke at 3:34 in the morning to a thundering roar in the pitch-blackness.  Everything in her room began to fall, crashing to the floor as the earth itself convulsed.  Her mother screamed. The roof caved in. Then, after two minutes and forty-five seconds of terror, came the silence. In the first trembling light of dawn, neighbours pulled Valentina unhurt from the rubble.  Her father and pregnant mother died when they ran back inside the house to rescue her. When Valentina lost her parents and her home, her church family embraced her with tender care, and within two weeks, Richard and the volunteer builders had her settled into a new Blessing Cabin.  Valentina started back to school as soon as it reopened with a new determination to graduate and to be the first in her family to finish high school.  She dares to dream again of college and a career. Valentina, whose name is derived from the word for “courage” in Spanish, experienced the ripples of compassion spreading throughout Chile and arriving from around the world after the February 27th, 2010 earthquake. 

Courageous compassion is throwing a stone in a pool of water, watching it disappear, and believing that the ripples will spread out beyond the scope of the initial action. From the “daring to do something for others” act, whether it be as simple as snipping coupons or selling t-shirts or as sacrificial as caring for a community during a national emergency, or running back inside a falling house to save a daughter’s life, spring invisible wavelets encircling people who may never know who threw the first pebble into the water.  Either as individuals or as communities of faith, whether we are able to witness the effects or not, we are called to send compassion ripples around the world by giving of ourselves to those in need.

Elena Huegel

Elena Huegel is a missionary with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC).  She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.