The other night over dinner, Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, CEO of Compassion International, told me a compelling story of how he was raised in a poor family with a mom and dad who were sold-out for Jesus.
Grabbed by a Stranger
“I was walking through the plaza in my small town in Mexico on a very busy night. It was the place where everyone gathered, especially at night. I was six years old. Lots of people were talking, eating, singing. As I walked along, I was forcefully grabbed. I jumped away, frightened.
“I looked back at the man who had grabbed me and saw he was a beggar. Both of his legs were missing. He had what looked like rubber caps on the ends of his stumps. He was dirty and unshaven with a desperate look in his eyes. I never saw anything like him before.”
“The beggar said, ‘Help me. Do you have some change?’
“I ran to my dad and said, ‘Give this man all the money you have in your pockets. He needs help, and we should help him.’
“My dad did just that. He looked through all his pockets and gave me what little he had. It was probably all he had. I then ran over to the man and gave him the money. He thanked me.”
Jimmy said, “Although I grew up poor, I always had the heart to serve the poor. My parents recognized this calling in me even when I was six years old. My heart for the poor has never changed. I want to help, to change their lives for the better, to raise them out of poverty. Being the CEO of Compassion International is a dream come true for me.”
400 Million Children
Jimmy then talked about the poor children all over the world. Children are considered in abject poverty if they are subsisting on less than $1.90 per day; 400 million children are living at this level of poverty. He explained Compassion International serves two million of these poor children. But the need is huge. They are only serving one-half of one percent.
The goal is to support the churches who support the families. They provide these children with food, faith, character, and education. His organization has story after story of villages served by churches who use the Compassion International’s methodologies and financial support which leads to success. And success is having whole families being lifted out of poverty. All amazing stories.
As I sat at there at the dinner, I couldn’t get that one-half of one percent out of my head. Any help appears to be a drop in the ocean. How could I possibly do anything to move the needle, to make a difference? I was inspired by the two million number but defeated by the one-half of one percent.
One-Half of One Percent
I asked him, “What if, instead of one beggar asking you for help, there were thirty legless beggars. You run to your father, and he gives you all that he had in his pockets, which of the beggars would you give the money to?”
He stopped and pondered the question and then said, “I don’t know.”
I said, “That is the problem with donors in America. We want to make a difference, but the problem of children in poverty is overwhelming. I want to make a difference in everything I do. But it looks to me like I just can’t make a difference here.”
“Now I understand,” he exclaimed.
Churches Make the Difference
“This is why we are careful to partner with churches in these poverty stricken areas. We support them, and they assist the poor. They know the children and their families. That is where the impact happens,” he said.
I shared with him, “I work with Pastor Elijah who leads Hands of Love in Uganda. His ministry serves over two thousand orphaned children, and the numbers keep increasing.
“In a conversation with Pastor Elijah, I once asked, ‘How can I possibly make a difference in the orphan crisis in Uganda?’
“I’ll never forget what he told me, ‘If each member of the church of Jesus Christ did what God asked him to do, there would be no poverty, and no orphan would be without sponsorship. Your only responsibility is to do what God asks you to do.’”
Pastor Elijah’s byline on his email is simply this: Together we can make all the difference.
Also published on Medium.