LATIN AMERICA CARIBBEAN
Story condensed from the February 2017 WorldView magazine. Read the full article by visiting www.agwm.com/worldview.
The line of men and women snaked around the building. The queue had been swelling since early morning as people walked in from the surrounding mountainous area, excited for the medical and dental help. What drew them to walk hours to the CompassionLink outreach was the local church’s organization of free medical and dental clinics, plus the additional community development training. What caused them to stay, however, was the compassion—sitting with Salvadoran and American believers who truly cared for them. A prescription of medicine may cure a health problem, but only the love of Jesus Christ can change a hurting heart.
As people slowly worked their way through the medical areas, a training session was occurring simultaneously nearby. A cluster of chairs was arranged neatly in a semicircle beneath the branches of the schoolyard’s lone shade tree. A small group of people filled the chairs, listening to training on Community Health Evangelism (CHE). These community leaders were working through the fundamental principles of CHE, taking in knowledge that would last far beyond the short days of that outreach.
I had heard of CompassionLink, but this was my first time to observe a CompassionLink outreach in person. I had often wondered what the ministry did and how it partnered with a local church. I had close friends (dentists) who had served on numerous trips, and they glowingly raved about the ministry. During my few days with the team, seeing the broad range of ministries awakened my eyes to the power of compassion ministry. This was not simply feel-good charitable work, but biblically-based compassion that was grounded on sustainability and respect. CompassionLink has both immediate ramifications and long-term impact.
CompassionLink makes a difference in a community.
A Clear Target
Throughout the years of ministry, CompassionLink and its predecessors have seen thousands of people come to Christ. Each person who has walked through the clinics has a name, a story, a past. Everyone has their own personal hurts and brokenness—and many have their stories of redemption.
CompassionLink is a relatively new formation, organized in 2015 by pulling HealthCare Ministries, Community Health Evangelism and SustainHope under one umbrella. Two others ministries—HisAbility and Pastoral Care International—were later developed to focus on other needs and priorities. By creating an umbrella organization for all five, CompassionLink is better able to minister in a community, targeting and meeting local needs. The individual components of CompassionLink have been in existence for many years, and by working as one ministry, they can touch the spectrum of needs in our hurting world.
CompassionLink is one arm of Assemblies of God World Missions, formed to serve the broken world, focused on developing ministries that are Christ-centered, prioritizing works that help people develop the skills to help themselves. One of its core values is to walk with people, rather than just doing work for people. Compassion is not the hook used to coerce people into a commitment to Christ; it is an opportunity to reflect Christ’s love. But the reflection of Christ’s heart of compassion opens continual conversations about His grace, leading to countless opportunities to pray with people for salvation.
Those values are what guided the team to El Salvador on those hot, muggy days, and have sent teams into 95 other countries around the world. These doctors, dentists, teachers and church members—a blend of Americans and Salvadorans—had traveled on the winding mountain roads to walk with people, serving them in the name of Jesus, but doing so while respecting the dignity of the church and culture.
Not everyone in our churches and missionary ranks is called to be an evangelist, a teacher, or a pastor. But we are all called to use our gifts and talents to show compassion. We need to utilize the wisdom of CompassionLink to learn how to use our acts of compassion wisely, lifting people up with dignity and respect, walking alongside them rather than stooping as if we are superior.
We are called to serve. As Jesus said:
I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. (John 13:15)
by Andy Raatz
AGWM Communications director