Matthew Fehse serves as a Global Mission Intern in the Philippines. His work with Global Ministries is funded by your offerings to Week of Compassion.
When I was twelve years old, I recall Week of Compassion as a time to give generously and faithfully. I had not seen exactly where the funds went and what it helped produce other than the envelope slipped into our worship service pamphlet. On the envelope there were usually children smiling, someone making pottery, or people harvesting a crop from an open field. At my young age, the effects of the church's relief efforts were distant and hard to relate with.
A little over ten years later I was given the opportunity to be involved in that effort; to contribute my labor to the fruits of the Global Mission Internship program which has a lot to thank Week of Compassion for. Attending the very first Disciple of Christ church built in the Philippines in 1901, I felt the partnership between the communities of faith whose love blurs political boundaries and is a testament to compassion. I'm also able to see how deep the roots of our giving affect the larger community.
About three weeks ago I was flown down south to the island of Mindanao. Meeting up with two German interns and church leaders, we were going to visit with Muslim communities at risk of losing their homes to demolitions. They struggle to find a home because they are landless and it is made more difficult that they set up communities on private land that is eventually sold to developers which obligates them to move again. These constant transitions make it difficult to establish a business or provide education to invest in their youth which would provide them with the capital to purchase their own land. This is where Week of Compassion steps up to the plate.
In this particular community, they suffer from discrimination in government employment. Despite constituting 40% of the population, Muslims are an extreme minority in terms of representation from that area as well as the demographics that make up the public service positions. To help their cause and show compassion for their difficulties, Global Ministries worked with local partners to help to create a project here which is a triad of services: a preschool, women's center, and textile business. The preschool program teaches about 20 children preparing them for elementary school and giving them a head start on learning fundamentals. The women's center provides a meeting place for the women's organization that acts as a medium for activism to lobby for rights, equal opportunity, and protection against violence. The textiles they produce help to either supplement or provide their income which gives them more financial stability and contributes to the larger goal of being able to purchase the land they've lived on for decades.
Week of Compassion commemorates why we tithe, why we contribute our time, and why we share what we've been given. Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Compassion does not discriminate against religion, politics, age, or ethnicity. Freely we've received, so freely we must give.