Monday, October 23, 2006

Compassion committed to integrity

Charity Navigator, one of the world's leading financial accountability organizations, awarded Compassion its highest ranking—4 stars—for the fifth year in a row. Only 1 percent of the more than 5,000 charities they rate have achieved this accomplishment in financial integrity.

It is easy to get bogged down in the statistics of poverty. Each year an estimated 33 million children are born without any hope for a future. Thirty percent of children worldwide suffer from malnutrition. Nineteen percent have no access to clean water. Seventeen percent will never go to school. And the most sobering statictic of all—30,000 children under the age of 15 die each day.**

These statistics are overwhelming, but at Compassion statistics don't matter as much as children do. In order to win this battle against poverty, Compassion strive for excellence in all areas of their ministry. In the past year, more than 135,000 children were registered in Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program. Here are some other milestones accomplished this year:
  • Worldwide sponsorship grew by 13 percent, bringing the year-end total of child sponsors to 689,086.

  • Total revenues were up by more than 18 percent over the previous year, enabling Compassion to serve more children than ever before.

  • Compassion's Leadership Development Program helped 1,017 promising young leaders with their college education and offered these young people Christian leadership training.

  • The Child Survival Program (CSP) rescued, nurtured and discipled more than 4,000 of the world's youngest, most vulnerable children and their caregivers. In the next year, Compassion plans to open 106 more CSP projects, bringing the total number to 172.

Read about the story of Emmanuel, Ghana's first sponsored child.

**Statistics from UNICEF's The State of the World's Children 2006


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Soft opening of Jackie's Favourite Asian Cuisine

My dear friend and housemate Amazing Grace reviewed a new restaurant in the CBD we patronized last night called Jackie's—namesake of the martial arts superstar Jackie Chan. According to research done by Aaronwe the Melbourne restaurant is the latest addition to the celebrity's international restaurant chain. While we did not expect Jackie himself to turn up at our table and make suggestions from the wine list, after the meal I figured that for the price they charge, the food falls short of the buildup, although the service was great and the ambience acceptable. Anyone looking to catch a glimpse of Jackie in Melbourne might also be disappointed as according to the captain, the actor is not likely to turn up on the restaurant's November/December grand opening.

Pros: Great ambience, great and courteous service.

Cons: Average food leaning more towards a fusion/westernized menu rather than authentic Asian cuisine.

Jackie's is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 am to 3:00pm. Dinner is from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on all days except Fridays and Saturdays, which is open until 11:00 pm. Location: Near corner of Elizabeth and La Trobe Streets (Melway 1A H1). Reservations: (03) 9606 0055

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Introducing Daniel and Maycol

Daniel and Maycol came into my life when I decided to support two other children with Compassion after Hamisi.

Both Daniel and Maycol are from Colombia, a country where drug trafficking is a serious problem. Common health problems in Daniel and Maycol's areas include respiratory disorders, bronchitis, and malnutrition.

Daniel lives with his father and mother. His father is employed and his mother maintains the home. There are two children in the family and Daniel is responsible for cleaning around the house. Playing with toy cars, playing ball games and reading are Daniel's favourite activites. Daniel's performance in school is average and he also regularly attends church activities.

Maycol makes his home with his father and mother. Making beds, running errands and cleaning are his household duties. His father is employed and his mother is sometimes employed. There are two children in the family. As part of Compassion's ministry, Maycol participates in Bible class. He is also in kindergarten where his performance is above average. Soccer, playing with cars and bicycling are Maycol's favourite activites.

Boring plaster

I received a letter from Maycol this week and among other things he told me he fell down on the street in June and had a heavy cast on his left arm which was boring! Months usually pass before the letters get translated, forwarded, and delivered. I wish it hadn't been so long before I got the news, and it'd be another 3 months or so before my words could reach back to Maycol. But being able to exchange letters with him and the other boys several times a year does foster a closer bond between us. I have yet to hear about other child sponsorship programs that makes it as special as Compassion does.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Kids under fire

While every other blogger might have been vigorously pounding at their keyboard by now commenting on the Jesus Camp film, here's my observation for what it's worth.

As depicted in the documentary that came out two weeks ago in the United States, a Christian youth camp called Kids on Fire was underway in North Dakota having children speaking in tongues, weeping uncontrollably for their sins (which seemed to have been owned up to by scare tactics), and claiming the nation for Jesus by being soldiers for Christ who are willing to die for the cause of God. As one boy put it, "A lot of people die for God, and they're not afraid."

The film in dispute opens up an old debate on religious radicalism, an ill-treated topic in the public sphere. Now the issue seems to be aggravated by throwing children into the mix.

I think people at the Jesus Camp are seriously misguided to inject militant ideas into Jesus' teachings and then indoctrinate youths with what's not taught in the Bible to begin with. Pastor Beckey Fischer of Jesus Camp said she wants to see children as "radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are in Palestine, Pakistan and all those different places." Granted that's a noble sentiment, I would love to ask Pastor Fischer just how exactly does she intend children to do that. While Christian martyrs in Palestine essentially face persecution by literally laying down their lives to those who want to take it (contrast that to so-called martyrs who wouldn't mind taking other people's lives along), which I believe is what Pastor Fischer meant by radically laying down one's life, it is only silly for Christian kids in America to be ready to lay down their lives in that sense when the persecution they might get more than anything else in their own country is that blank embarassed stare of disconnection from their schoolmates when they start to utter religious babbles. Not unless Fischer intended to station the kids in Iraq at the end of the camp.

It is certainly easier to pound military slogans into the minds of little ones over the weekend in the name of truth and fun—which is a very strange combination by the way—than committing to the painstaking process of real Christian education, which involves critical thinking rather than propagation of religious catchphrases that could be confusing even to grownups. By the way there's nowhere in the Gospel accounts where Jesus was recorded as commissioning His disciples to die for Him either as a means or an end to their faith, which is what the Jesus Camp seems to be explicitly promoting to children. You can't really blame the media for equating Evangelicals with al-Qaeda terrorists when you have people like this misrepresenting Jesus.

It got me worried about the kinds of trash they feed the kids with at the camp, when a little girl of ten or so was shown going to a bowling alley and striking up conversations with strangers that begin with, "Hi, God spoke to me today and He told me..." One wonders if God has really spoken in that instance (see A Private Hot Line to God? by Greg Koukl). And you know you've really had it when children are shown worshipping in front of a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush.

One thing this reminds me of is the immense power of children to imitate. Left with no choice of better Christian examples to follow, kids will follow anyone that comes along and claims to offer them the truth. Rather than preparing children to advance the much-needed Gospel in the world, the Jesus Camp was nothing more than a circus frenzy with a serious role confusion that mistakes themselves as the militant Jesus at end times. Though I'm sure they really meant well, the effort is so farcical it's sad.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

A.B. Paterson, Australian bush poet

I first stumbled upon A.B. Paterson's (1864-1941) poem The Man From Snowy River when I noticed two lines of verse scribbled at the bottom of the front of a 10-dollar Aussie note:

"There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away"

The poem tells the story of a daring young horseback rider who recaptured the colt of a champion racehorse that had escaped from its paddock to live in the mountains with the wild horses. And famous among Paterson's poems is one that has evolved over the century into Australia's unofficial national anthem:

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me."

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
"Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?"
"You'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me."

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Up jumped the swagman, leapt into the billabong.
"You'll never catch me alive," said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong.
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

For over 100 years Waltzing Matilda has been passed on by oral tradition, in written forms, in sound recordings and other media. It has been represented and reinterpreted in countless artistic works, through music, film, television, dance and literature. The song appears in multiple genres and hundreds of locations—in parodies and paintings, in travel stories, in children's books, at sporting events and national parades. It has been used to commemorate Australia's participation in wars. In other words, the song has assumed a special status in the nation's cultural life.

According to Wikipedia:

"There have long been persistent calls for the establishment of Waltzing Matilda as the national anthem over the current national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. The song is certainly easily recognisable and easily sung, but its lyrics, relating the story of a swagman (see glossary of terms below) who steals a sheep and drowns himself when law enforcement arrives, render it unlikely to ever gain acceptance in official circles. Many Australians, however, continue to regard it with great favour and sentimentality. Some have suggested using the same tune but with different lyrics, but supporters argue [Paterson's] lyrics contribute substantially to the song's character."


Billabong: A waterhole near a river

Billy: A tin can with a wire handle used to boil water

Coolibah: A eucalyptus tree

Jumbuck: A sheep

Squatter: A wealthy land owner

Swagman: A drifter, or hobo, an itinerant shearer who
carried all his belongings wrapped up in a blanket or
cloth called a "swag"

Trooper: A policeman, a mounted militia-man

Tucker Bag: A bag for keeping food

Waltzing Matilda: To travel from place to place in search
of work with all one's belongings on one's back wrapped
in a blanket or cloth