COMPASSION IS SAVING LIVES WITH ‘DARE TO BE ‘

By Christine Miyawa
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – In a fully packed Wesley Hall at the First United Methodist Church in Jonesboro, Dare To Be ministry held its first conference in Jonesboro on Oct. 3. Multi-Dove and Grammy Award winner Natalie Grant and author and Pastor Charlotte Gambil founded the ministry which seeks to empower women of all ages.

Shirts are displayed while on sale during the Dare To Be ministry concert.

Grant performed at the sold-out event and it was the first time for Gambil, who lives and pastors the Life Church in England, United Kingdom, to visit this part of the United States of America.

Gambil, together with Grant, started the ministry to empower women and to help them reach their potential and be whom God has called them to be. They do so through the ministry of music and preaching.  “In the eye of the storm, there is calmness,” Gambil said.

Compassion International, a humanitarian organization helping needy children from developing countries, organized the concert. The theme of the event was “Speak to the Storm”.

Gambil gave a story of Eliezer, a 4-year-old Rwandese boy now a grown man in his 20s and a member of her church in England, whose parents and grandparents were slain by rebels during the Rwandan genocide at his watch.

Profile packets of children seeking sponsors are on display during the Dare To Be ministry concert.

Eliezer’s mother asked him to climb a tree and keep silent should the rebels come to attack his family. When rebels finally did, Eliezer climbed the tree and observed as both his parents and grandparents were hacked to death by machetes. He did not say a word and hid on the tree for two days. When he finally came down, he walked to the street; someone saw he was a child walking alone and took him to Compassion International, where Eliezer was adopted.

That story inspired Gambil. Gambil said she saw in her storm; she was able to help someone else in their storm. Gambil’s storm was lack of a child. She struggled with infertility. When she realized the possibility of adopting a child through Compassion, she saw a way to saw a seed for a miracle she was asking God for, so she became a sponsor.

Grant implored the audience during the concert to support Compassion International by contributing $38 a month to sponsor a child.  Profiles of children from several countries laid out in a packet on a table at the entrance, which she asked the volunteers to distribute to those who raised their hands.

“If you take a packet, this is a no-pressure deal. We just want to make you aware and invite you to be a part of it, but we don’t want to strong-arm you into it or anything,” Grant said.  “So, if you take a packet and you are like, ‘you know what, I just don’t think I can do this right now,’ we just need the packet back. This is why, every packet represents a real-life, so if you accidentally take it home or slip it in your bag and it gets lost, it takes months for that child on the packet to go through the system and get back on the packet, to have an opportunity to get sponsored again,” Grant said.

Volunteers passed packets; some people in the audience wrote checks.

The lead organizer from Compassion International at the Jonesboro Concert, Rachel Knoop 25-years-old, from Minnesota, said, her organization is in partnership with the Dare To Be ministry to help reach out and support less fortunate children in the developing countries.

Rachel said Compassion International was founded in 1952 by Everette Swanson, a preacher who traveled to South Korea to preach the gospel to the Army troops during the war. In his travels, Swanson encountered children orphaned by war and started the organization to raise funds to help the children with a little money every month to survive on.

Rachel said she has worked for the organization for some time.

“We are in 25 countries; recently, I was in Tanzania, Africa. I have also been to the Dominican Republic,” she said.

She said the organization is taking a holistic approach to eradicating poverty, providing clean water, nutrition for kids and their families, education and catering for the health costs.

“Compassion International is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’s name,” she said.

Rachel said the organization works with the local churches to recruit children to the program. Before, they used to hire a local staff member to do the recruiting. She said the local staff knew which children are most vulnerable. Now, it’s open and children can apply directly at compasion.com. She said they must meet critical poverty guideline, which is living on a $1.25 or less per day.

Rachel said they take in children from birth and the sponsors stay with them until they graduate out of the program at ages 18 to 22.

Once a child gets connected to a sponsor, they write each other letters back and forth. They get to know each other.

Sheila Hinson, a volunteer at the organization, handling a table where an array of profiles of children were spread out, said she has sponsored a child for the past 12 years.

Hinson started sponsoring Martha Wanjiru from Kenya when Wanjiru was only 6-years-old. She said when she picked Wanjiru’s packet, she was the only child left on the waiting list who had not found a sponsor. She said every month she spends $38 on Wanjiru and has done so for the past 12 years.

She said Wanjiru talks a lot about education. She said she hopes she can help make her dream come true and is in a place where she hears about Jesus.

Wanjiru is now 18 years old and pursuing a career in nursing. Smiling broadly, Sheila said she was also in the medical field for a long time. She sends her birthday cards and Wanjiru writes to her at least four to five times a year.

Erick Bush, 52, from Memphis, another Compassion International volunteer at the event. Bush said the organization sponsors children from South and Central America, Asia and Africa. He said to sponsor a child you pick out a packet, on the package are a photo of the child, information about the child, the child’s specific needs, their birth date and the community from where the child originates. There is a place for the sponsor to include their name and their credit card numbers. He says anyone interested can go online on Compassion.com, fill out their information and become a sponsor.

Bush is sponsoring two children from Ecuador. This is his eighth year since he started sponsoring them and plans to continue until they are out of the program. Bush sponsors the children providing food, shelter and medical services. He said he is sponsoring the children as an overflow of gratitude to Jesus Christ for the grace. When he is not volunteering for compassion International, he runs a restaurant in Memphis.

Knoop said a graduate of the program, Jonathan Almonte, ran for a political office in the Dominican Republic. Almonte is also a founder of a ministry that provides leadership training to local churches in the Dominican Republic.

Faith Benson from Nashville, Tennessee, the merchandise manager for “Dare To Be” oversaw the sales team selling branded T-shirts, jackets that read, ‘Peace is Power,’ necklaces that read, ‘Faith over Fear’ and devotional books authored by Gambil and Grant.

Benson said every night in the course of the tour, they have an honoree moment, where women at the previous event give offerings which they use to bless a woman at the next concert.  Volunteers passed baskets around in the concert hall and people made their offerings.

The Jonesboro event honored Tiffney Turner, a breast cancer survivor who has recovered from drug problems and is helping men and women who have drug problems beat the addiction through her ‘Breaking Bonds’ Ministry, was the Honoree. She received flowers, a black handbag made by women fighting addiction, and a two-day paid vacation at a hotel so she could celebrate her wedding anniversary, which fell on that same day and a 15-seater van to help transport the men and women in her ministry.

Gambil closed the event with a call on the audience to come forward and receive Christ Jesus, as Grant led the audience in a chorus of the song: ‘Whom you say I am,’ by Hillsong Worship.

The duo, together with their crew, headed to Dallas, Texas, for their “Dare To Be” performance the following day and after that to San Antonio, Texas.

Editor’s Note: Photos taken by Christine Miyawa.

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