On the day his church launches a partnership with Compassion, Pastor Godfrey Yona looks forward to the mission of releasing children from poverty … and explains why he takes it so personally.

A new partnership begins

It is 7:30 am on 13 September at the Anglican Church in Maswa, Tanzania. Pastor Godfrey Yona has just finished his morning devotions and is sitting in his office, a room furnished only with an unpolished wooden table and three plastic chairs.

Today is the day that he and his church members have been preparing for and looking forward to for months—the day their partnership with Compassion is officially launched.

They have completed an extensive training process coordinated by the Compassion Tanzania National Office and are ready to go.

“We select a church to partner with based on the ability and readiness of the church to serve the children living in need,” says Ilandkunda Thomas, Compassion Tanzania Partnership Preparation Specialist.

“Most of the churches might have the ability to take 150-plus children but they are unprepared as to what it entails to fully serve them. So, after training them on resource mobilisation and how to implement the program, we give them a period of one year to prepare themselves before the actual partnership [begins].”

PP Dec 2019 Answer-to-Prayer 1

Overcoming poverty is personal

For Pastor Yona, this mission is personal. Born and raised in Maswa, he has seen firsthand the devastating generational cycle of poverty.

“Out of the 57 people I went to primary school with, only five of us advanced to secondary school,” he says. “The rest turned to crime or alcohol, and some are dead. I saw that their kids were in danger of ending up in the same cycle their parents were caught in.”

His goal is to keep the community’s children from being caught in that cycle, and he believes that partnership with Compassion is the key to achieving that goal.

In preparation for this day, Pastor Yona and volunteers from the church have canvassed the neighbourhood, going door to door to identify the children in greatest need. They explain to caregivers the benefits their children will receive from the Compassion program and encourage them to bring their children to the church on 13 September to be registered.

Most of the homes Pastor Yona and his team visit are small mud huts, with no electricity or running water, their toilets only crude outdoor latrines. At each of the more than 100 homes visited, a child between three and seven is selected for registration. In cases of age-eligible twins, both are selected.

Edwin Mugisha of Compassion Tanzania explains that young children are registered because, he says, “To change the lives of children, Compassion strives to be an influence on them from a young age and maintain our involvement with them until young adulthood.”

PP Dec 2019 Answer-to-Prayer 3

The big day arrives

On 13 September, caregivers and children, dressed in their best outfits, arrive at the church at the appointed time. Caregivers have great hope that registering their children in the Compassion program will provide them the promise of a better future.

“By registering my daughter Fadhila, she will get a good education and, hopefully, she will then be able to help her siblings,” says father Edward Elias.

The church is filled with excitement and energy as each child’s personal and family information is recorded by Pastor Yona and his team. Registration also includes weighing the children to provide a baseline for monitoring their physical development. Finally, their photos are taken, and their details are entered into Compassion’s system to be linked with individual sponsors. Soon, they will start coming to the church each Saturday for activities that will develop their potential in all facets of life: physical, educational, relational and spiritual.

PP Dec 2019 Answer-to-Prayer 4

For children like Fadhila, they get to make new friends and have a place to learn and play when their parents are out working.

The day ends with parents and children walking hand in hand through the gates of the church with smiles on their faces as they look forward to the program starting.

As Pastor Yona looks over the busy scene, he says a silent prayer for these 150-plus young children. Although they might not understand the importance of this day, he knows they are receiving the precious opportunity to grow, thrive and be released from poverty.

And he can already see in them a new generation of teachers, doctors, pastors, lawyers—a new generation of hope for their families, for the community of Maswa, and for Tanzania.

Words and photos by Eric D. Lema

Sign up for stories

The best stories of the month, delivered to your inbox.

The best stories of the month, delivered to your inbox.