By Bethany Adams
For The Tribune
TRUSSVILLE– In the first room, behind a door painted with the name “Ruben”, a yellow toy truck sits on the floor. Next to it is a little girl’s doll covered in grime. They are both surrounded by crumpled pieces of trash.
It’s the first of many images which may seem out-of-place, but which are everyday realities for thousands of children worldwide. Designed to offer a glimpse into those realities, the Compassion Experience is a travelling project which features life-sized recreations of real homes of real children—children like Ruben, who grew up in Bolivia.
The Compassion Experience is an initiative by Compassion International, an organization which connects children like Ruben with sponsors in North America in order to provide basic needs and education. From January 20-24, Northpark Baptist Church hosted Compassion as a way to provide education to the community about the struggle of living in poverty.
“It’s hard to describe it, and most people can’t go to another country to see it first-hand,” said Stephen Hall, Associate Pastor of Northpark. He helped organize the event after seeing Compassion spaces in-person during a trip to Peru. “And so, going through this, you see that and you realize that this isn’t good.”
Among the guests who visited over the weekend were the Hewitt-Trussville High School football team, who are soon planning to take part in volunteering opportunities. “At first, when we walked in and saw [Ruben’s] bedroom and everything, it was just kind of humbling, because I go home and I have a four-bedroom house,” team member Elliott McEwlain said. “It’s just really humbling to see stuff like that, because you don’t see that every day.”
Coach Josh Floyd hoped that the boys would benefit from the experience. “This was great for our kids — it was good for me,” he said. “But it was great for them to see that it’s a big world out there, and not many people have it as good as we do.”
Helping more people see the need for help is one of the goals of the experience, according to Hall. “I guess the second goal is to help inspire people with ideas to do something about it,” he said. “When people begin to see the struggle of the world around them, you know, the hope is that people are inspired to be a change agent in that world.”
According to Alex Craft, who has worked with Compassion International for over a year, creating change goes beyond just providing food and water. “The goal is to impact the lives of these kids that need sponsorship, to provide them with food, clean water education, basic necessities,” he said, “but for them also to hear the good news of Christ. To have eternal hope, not just temporary, and to connect people who have the means to make a difference with ways that they actually can make an impact.”
For children like Ruben and the thousands of other children living in poverty, that impact can make all the difference in the world.
For a list of future locations of the Compassion Experience, visit cts.compassion.com/events. To sponsor a child at any time, visit Compassion.com.