The team of 14 from Gladstone had an incredible experience in Indonesia earlier this year, visiting their sponsor children. Photo Contributed
The team of 14 from Gladstone had an incredible experience in Indonesia earlier this year, visiting their sponsor children. Photo Contributed Contributed

Gladstone team spreads concern and care to families overseas

A WISE man once said - the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing - Edmund Burke (Irish philosopher).

"I think there's so many people in the world who don't know they're loved and cared for," Gladstone's Lifestyle Church Compassion world impact director Melissa Eckel said.

"Especially when you're brought up in poverty - you don't know you're worth a thing."

It was this reason, amongst others, which led Melissa and her husband Alby to journey to Indonesia for two weeks, with a team of 14 of our region's residents.

The group of Gladstone residents ranged from 13 to 70 years old.

They had one mission in sight - to visit and care for their sponsor children and families.

"When you've got poverty telling you you're not worth any different, that you don't have any food…you don't have any hope," Melissa said.

"We just wanted to tell these sponsor children and any other sponsor children that they matter and they're worth something."

When Melissa and Alby first moved to Gladstone six years ago, they brought with them their two kids, Tahlia, 15, and Asher, 5.

But their beloved children were not the only things they carried.

They also brought two large hearts, passionate about others - especially those underprivileged and living in dismal lifestyles of poverty.

Melissa and Alby Eckel had a heart-warming visit at their sponsor child Mika's home. Photo Contributed
Melissa and Alby Eckel had a heart-warming visit at their sponsor child Mika's home. Photo Contributed Contributed

The couple had been involved in other mission trips, but the recent trip was the couple's fourth voyage to Indonesia with the Lifestyle Church's program.

In June the group travelled to central Java where they spent time in Semarang and Jepara.

The region of Jepara is known for vast forest areas and Melissa said its main industry was carpentry.

"But the problem is because there are so many carpenters they've run out of wood," she said.

"They're not trained in anything else. There are no jobs for the people and that's why they are so poor at the moment."

Melissa said this was one reason they were sponsoring the children, helping to educate them and give them a chance to learn different trades.

"The projects we go to, do vocational training so they could learn how to be a mechanic or hairdresser," she said.

During their visit, the team had an opportunity to lead and participate in workshops to help families.

My sponsor mum almost cried when I handed her the bag of rice

"The staff over there really wanted the mums to realise they can make a difference to their family situation," Melissa said.

"Because in that culture women are not classed as very important."

Solutions included selling items at the markets, which helped bring in extra income.

Melissa said they also worked with the womenin self-esteem workshops.

"We wanted them to know they were important and valued," she said.

Some of the situations they saw were deeply saddening, but the team also experienced hope .

"We saw how much the sponsorship does affect their lives and changes their lives for the better," Melissa said.

When the team members had the opportunity to visit their individual sponsor child's homes, emotions seemed to get the better of everyone.

Melissa said team members brought with them about $30 of groceries for the families, which would keep them fed for a couple of months.

While some of the mums appreciated their gifts of chocolate and moisturiser, it was the staple food items that created tears of joy.

"My sponsor mum almost cried when I handed her the bag of rice," Melissa said.

Each group member was impacted by the chance to meet their sponsor child and one of the biggest highlights included an outing to a water park.

"It didn't matter if you could speak the language," Melissa said.

"You just had fun together."

Meeting her sponsor daughter for the first time and experiencing the park ignited joy in Melissa.

Melissa Eckel and sponsor child Fena meet for the very first time. Photo Contributed
Melissa Eckel and sponsor child Fena meet for the very first time. Photo Contributed Contributed

"She was speaking to me in Indonesian - 'lagi, lagi' - meaning again, again.

"So we were going up and down these waterslides," Melissa laughed.

By the end of the trip the youngest team member, 13-year-old Tiara, explained to Melissa how deeply the trip impacted her life.

Melissa relayed the conversation.

"She said something along the lines of, 'before I came here I was so selfish and didn't think that I had enough and I just wanted more things.

"And then she broke down crying.

"She was pretty much saying her whole perspective had changed in what you really do need in your life," Melissa explained.

Remembering the words by Compassion CEO Wess Stafford, Melissa said sponsorship was an opportunity to change a person's life for the better.

"Changed circumstances sometimes change people but changed people always change their circumstances," she said.

While in Indonesia the team saw how thrilled the children were to look through gifts sent on behalf of other sponsors. The team took about 60 pencil cases filled with toys, educational supplies, toothbrushes and more. Photo Contributed
While in Indonesia the team saw how thrilled the children were to look through gifts sent on behalf of other sponsors. The team took about 60 pencil cases filled with toys, educational supplies, toothbrushes and more. Photo Contributed Contributed

Facts

  • Compassion is an international Christian child sponsorship organisation that is dedicated to the long-term development of children living in poverty throughout the world.
  • Sponsoring a child includes regular letter writing communication.
  • To learn more about sponsoring a child go to the Compassion website.
  • In 2012 - 29 million people were found to be living in absolute poverty, according to Indonesia-investments.com.
Sponsor children from Jepara absolutely loved spending time with Gladstone's Alison Thomas (team member). Photo Contributed
Sponsor children from Jepara absolutely loved spending time with Gladstone's Alison Thomas (team member). Photo Contributed Contributed


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