2020—the year it felt like the world changed. Together, we have walked through more than 12 months of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Despite the immense challenges of this season, there are good news stories all around us. God remains faithful and good and you have played a part in His restorative work in our world!

Can you think back to early 2020 when COVID-19 was still a seemingly distant threat? Each of us held hopes and plans for the year ahead. In a matter of weeks, it will have been 1 year since the world shut down as the reality of the pandemic became painfully clear. For many of us, our plans were shattered.

Ever since, we’ve found ourselves adjusting to the world’s ‘new normal’, characterised by long periods of time spent isolated in our homes, socially distanced interactions, restricted travel and a dramatic increase in the use of face masks and sanitiser. Who knew the word ‘Zoom’ would become such a big part of our vocabulary over the last 12 months?

We each have our stories from this unexpected journey, not least of which are the stories of children living in poverty, who are perhaps the most vulnerable of all to the impact of the pandemic.

These are stories that speak not only of hardship or injustice, but also of God’s restoration and steadfast nature in a time of crisis.

Yhovana’s is one of them. When COVID-19 hit Bolivia, her husband lost his job. One day, desperate to feed her children, she looked down at the bucket of chicken guts she fed to her employer’s pigs. She had no choice. “I collected the nicer intestines to bring home,” she says, “to cook and eat.” When Compassion’s partner heard, they delivered groceries. Yhovana’s family needed food, but they also deserve dignity.

Another story is of a grandmother in Brazil. She had just been handed a basket heavy with food by Compassion’s local church partner. She was all alone. Concerned, the pastor asked if she needed help to carry it. Her response brought tears to his eyes. “It would be heavier if it were empty,” she replied.

Or Tribin, a mother in Bangladesh. Even before the pandemic, she and her husband struggled to earn enough to feed their little girls. In what is the most challenging season of their lives, she says the pandemic has taught her to believe in miracles. Compassion’s partner keeps providing for them at just the right time.

If these stories broke our hearts, others made us laugh. In the Philippines, a teenage boy rode a water buffalo with a karaoke machine blaring to spread joy and raise funds for COVID-19 patients. In El Salvador, a family coped with being cooped up at home by creating their own stationary bicycle—using their bodies. Their youngest boy, little Josue, was the wheels.

Mostly though, we are left in awe of people’s courage, dedication and capacity to continually pour out love upon vulnerable families. In 2020, the world shut its doors and closed its borders. Yet people like Compassion’s church partners opened their hands and their hearts. In dozens of different languages, they said ‘What do you need? We are here for you.’

You were part of it.

COVID-19 Supporter Impact

In a year that many of us would like to erase, truly beautiful things happened. By being a Compassion supporter, by sponsoring a child, you empowered Compassion’s incredible local partners to be the hands and feet of Jesus. In the Japanese art of Kintsugi, broken pottery pieces are repaired with gold. By embracing the flaws and imperfections, it creates a stronger, more beautiful piece. 2020 was a year that often felt broken, but we can see how God has filled the cracks with bright, shining gold.

Here is some of the gold from the year the world changed. These moments and lessons represent prayers answered, lives changed and hope restored. They show what is possible when together, we rise as one.

1. We showed up for one another

We were separated by distance but fought to remain united. Friends celebrated graduations and birthdays by driving past homes, balloons streaming from car windows. Teenagers taught grandparents to use Zoom. Neighbours dropped encouraging notes in mailboxes. Loved ones waved from pavements beneath hospital windows. When vulnerable families needed healthcare during the pandemic, Compassion’s partners were there. From April 2020 to January 2021, they supported 970,660 situations requiring medical care.

Being separated was hard. It caused excruciating pain to many. But distance couldn’t stop us from showing up for one another, and time together now is all the more precious.

2. We realised the church is more than a building

From the beginning, the church has always been more than a building. But in 2020, when many couldn’t attend services in person, this truth really shone. Churches all over the world adapted, shifting online, moving services outdoors, and providing support in new ways to continue being the hands and feet of Jesus.

When their church doors closed, Compassion’s partners taught children virtually, prayed for families over the phone and even delivered birthday cakes at a safe distance. They distributed a staggering 10,614,674 food parcels to vulnerable families—each one representing a full belly and a weight off an anxious parent’s shoulders.

3. We learned to smile with our eyes

It was a skill most of us didn’t realise we needed. When face masks were introduced, suddenly we had to express ourselves using only the top half of our face.

In some developing countries, the prices of face masks and hand sanitiser skyrocketed, making these simple tools of self-protection out of reach. Compassion’s church partners distributed more than 7,128,706 million hygiene kits, helping to protect precious lives.

4. We saw God’s faithfulness

In all of the challenges, we saw God at work. He inspired the Filipino teenager in his quest to create smiles, He showed up on Tribin’s doorstep through the faithful centre volunteers, and He walked alongside the Brazilian grandmother as she carried her food basket home.

He made pathways through the wilderness and rivers in the dry wasteland, just as He promised. If you haven’t seen this in your own life yet, take heart. He is still working.

It’s a good day to celebrate the good news, even though it’s been a difficult season.

2020 — the year it felt like the world changed. But let’s remember the ways God filled the cracks with gold and restored our hope. He remains faithful and good.

Words by Zoe Noakes and Rachel Howlett

Photos by Jehojakim Sangare