Written by Alyssa Esparza of Pickering, Ontario

This series shares stories about youth discovering our role in God’s story and taking action through the ministry of Compassion Canada. God’s story is one of redemption for the brokenness in our world! May these stories inspire you to think about your role and encourage you along your journey.

Karissa’s Story

For Karissa, 19, from Toronto, sponsoring Compassion children and serving those in need has always been a part of her life.

“From a really young age, my parents wanted me and my brothers to be writing letters to someone and having an impact on someone who is less fortunate than we are,” says Karissa. “It was really good for us to start understanding that we are in a position of privilege in relation to a lot of the world, and we should use that to bless others.”

When Karissa started making money on a paper route in middle school, she immediately took over paying for the sponsorship of her Compassion sister, Joyce, from the Philippines.

“The way I grew up it was just a given. It wasn’t really a question, it was just: ‘You have money now, and you can afford to help this person in a very significant way. It’s not a lot of money to make a huge difference in their life.’ It’s really important to my family to bless other people through the way God has blessed us.”

Karissa has taken this year off from school to serve in Uganda with Watoto Ministries. The way she was raised made that decision an easy one.

“I was taught that the most important thing is to help others. Sponsoring and writing to Joyce has definitely affected the path I’m now on. Even though the Philippines is obviously an entirely different place than Uganda, child sponsorship has definitely helped me become the person that I am, without me even realizing it.”

Karissa’s experiences working with kids at church, camp and other settings also contributed to her decision to serve in Uganda.

“I love getting to see the ways you can make a difference in a kid’s life,” she says. “When you tell a child about a God who loves them exactly the way they are, they just look at you with these wide eyes of wonder and amazement. Even though they’re young, I know that I’m helping set a foundation for them to have that journey with God.”

Reaching out to vulnerable women and children is also important to her, because she grew up in a rough neighbourhood and saw people she loves go through pain. “Watoto will be an amazing place for me to be a part of making a difference in painful situations.”

Having a compassionate outlook on the world, Karissa says, is vital to having the full, abundant life that Jesus promises.

She encourages everyone to start the journey to compassion with small steps. “When you don’t look at the world with compassion and understand that people come from completely different situations, I don’t think you can truly live life to the fullest. When you’re living as a Christian and want to do what God wants you to do, you can’t do that if you don’t take the time to have a broader perspective on what other people go through and what other people experience.

“It doesn’t have to be a big thing at first. Just start small and build your confidence and build your compassion. I believe that as long as you are trying to do what God wants you to do in each situation, you can make a difference, no matter how small.”